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Meghan Daum is one of the most celebrated nonfiction writers of her generation, widely recognized for the fresh, provocative approach with which she unearths hidden fault lines in the American landscape. From her well-remembered New Yorker essays about the financial demands of big-city ambition and the ethereal, strangely old-fashioned allure of cyber relationships to her Meghan Daum is one of the most celebrated nonfiction writers of her generation, widely recognized for the fresh, provocative approach with which she unearths hidden fault lines in the American landscape. From her well-remembered New Yorker essays about the financial demands of big-city ambition and the ethereal, strangely old-fashioned allure of cyber relationships to her dazzlingly hilarious riff in Harper's about musical passions that give way to middle-brow paraphernalia, Daum delves into the center of things while closely examining the detritus that spills out along the way. She speaks to questions at the root of the contemporary experience, from the search for authenticity and interpersonal connection in a society defined by consumerism and media; to the disenchantment of working in a "glamour profession"; to the catastrophic effects of living among New York City's terminal hipsters. With precision and well-balanced irony, Daum implicates herself as readily as she does the targets that fascinate and horrify her. In a review of The KGB Bar Reader, in which Daphne Merkin singled out Daum's essay about the inability to mourn a friend's death, Merkin wrote: "It's brutally quick, the way this happens, this falling in love with a writer's style. Daum's story hooked me by the second line. Hmm, I thought, this is a writer worth suspending my routines for."


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Meghan Daum is one of the most celebrated nonfiction writers of her generation, widely recognized for the fresh, provocative approach with which she unearths hidden fault lines in the American landscape. From her well-remembered New Yorker essays about the financial demands of big-city ambition and the ethereal, strangely old-fashioned allure of cyber relationships to her Meghan Daum is one of the most celebrated nonfiction writers of her generation, widely recognized for the fresh, provocative approach with which she unearths hidden fault lines in the American landscape. From her well-remembered New Yorker essays about the financial demands of big-city ambition and the ethereal, strangely old-fashioned allure of cyber relationships to her dazzlingly hilarious riff in Harper's about musical passions that give way to middle-brow paraphernalia, Daum delves into the center of things while closely examining the detritus that spills out along the way. She speaks to questions at the root of the contemporary experience, from the search for authenticity and interpersonal connection in a society defined by consumerism and media; to the disenchantment of working in a "glamour profession"; to the catastrophic effects of living among New York City's terminal hipsters. With precision and well-balanced irony, Daum implicates herself as readily as she does the targets that fascinate and horrify her. In a review of The KGB Bar Reader, in which Daphne Merkin singled out Daum's essay about the inability to mourn a friend's death, Merkin wrote: "It's brutally quick, the way this happens, this falling in love with a writer's style. Daum's story hooked me by the second line. Hmm, I thought, this is a writer worth suspending my routines for."

30 review for My Misspent Youth: Essays

  1. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    DNF at 129 pages. I bought this book because the preview I read of the first essay and tbh that was the only good one. I just don't like Daum's attitude. Her essays are very opinionated and I disagree with a lot of those opinions. Literally one of her essays was about a family of polygamists, which is interesting and I would love to learn about, but she posed it from the position of "haha look at these nerds who are geeky sci-fi lovers and fuck multiple people" and it was just disturbing. The re DNF at 129 pages. I bought this book because the preview I read of the first essay and tbh that was the only good one. I just don't like Daum's attitude. Her essays are very opinionated and I disagree with a lot of those opinions. Literally one of her essays was about a family of polygamists, which is interesting and I would love to learn about, but she posed it from the position of "haha look at these nerds who are geeky sci-fi lovers and fuck multiple people" and it was just disturbing. The rest of her essays were uncomfortable and boring, which is a complete shock because the first essay was written so well and made me think.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ocean

    UGH. this book makes me so glad that i left new york. why? because i'd have to deal with people like meghan daum all fucking day. people who feel the need to write 1000+ word essays on things like their hatred of carpet (although i know you carpet-haters like to pontificate on that subject), people who think that their neurotic/workaholic tendencies are funny and interesting as opposed to boring and draining, people who make hardly any money yet rent apartments in fancy neighborhoods and then wr UGH. this book makes me so glad that i left new york. why? because i'd have to deal with people like meghan daum all fucking day. people who feel the need to write 1000+ word essays on things like their hatred of carpet (although i know you carpet-haters like to pontificate on that subject), people who think that their neurotic/workaholic tendencies are funny and interesting as opposed to boring and draining, people who make hardly any money yet rent apartments in fancy neighborhoods and then write lengthy essays about how much debt they're in. i had high hopes for this book, as i really loved daum's novel, and i'd read the title essay on the internet and thought it was pretty engaging. but this book just drove me nuts. yet, i couldn't stop reading it. from the introduction where she spelled out the fact that every essay has a point (gasp! really?) just in case we, the readers, are too dumb to figure out that remarkably obvious fact, i knew i was in for a lousy experience. yet i kept at it, partially because daum is not an untalented writer. far from it. she keeps you interested and she can turn a good phrase. the essay that horrified and annoyed me the most was the last one, where a mediocre friend of meghan's drops dead and she feels no grief, yet pretends to for the sake of his parents. while being completely sweet to their faces, she writes an essay blaming the parents for their son's death (he died of a rare, fatal virus) because they spoiled him too much. ?!?!?!! i feel like a) reading that essay, if they ever did, must have been the most hurtful thing ever for these grieving parents. the entire point of making that statement seems to be for shock value, but the shock it causes is not even that interesting. have i, personally, thought (or even said) uncharitable things about dead people? of course. have i said it within earshot of people who do actually care that they're dead? absolutely not. there's no purpose to that; it doesn't change anything and just makes the staggering weight of grief that much more unbearable for those who are feeling it. yet daum seems to have no problem with publishing this for the entire world to see. all in all, this book completely lacked anything of real interest. it's well-planned and well-written but there is no joy involved, and no real misery either, just endless petty complaints of someone who does not realize how privileged they are.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    Meghan Daum and I are around the same age, and I'm sure I would've related more to My Misspent Youth if I'd read it back when it was first published in the 1990s. In the 2010s, however, this book is dated, dated, dated. Take the essay where Daum gets a job with a publisher and complains about having to work on popular books rather than literary ones. With the economy and the state of publishing being what they are currently, I think most editorial assistants now realize that popular books are th Meghan Daum and I are around the same age, and I'm sure I would've related more to My Misspent Youth if I'd read it back when it was first published in the 1990s. In the 2010s, however, this book is dated, dated, dated. Take the essay where Daum gets a job with a publisher and complains about having to work on popular books rather than literary ones. With the economy and the state of publishing being what they are currently, I think most editorial assistants now realize that popular books are their bread and butter and the only way to keep the whole thing alive. I'm sure some of them complain about it privately, but the time to write whiny essays about how your talents entitle you to work on something more intellectual is long since past. Things don't improve when Daum busts out of the office and visits a polyamorous community. Nowadays we're more inclined to let people speak for themselves about the personal choices they've made, but back in the 1990s, twentysomething, whitebread Meghan Daum feels perfectly comfortable concluding that these people have become polyamorous to make up for not having been popular in high school. Thanks, Meghan, for that insight born of your nonexistent wisdom and experience. I think I speak for many readers when I say I am unconvinced. Admittedly, there are one or two essays that are more than just filler material for a time capsule. The title essay, about Daum's crushing credit-card and student-loan debt, could have been written yesterday. Does it make up for the essay where she pointlessly talks about how she enjoys being a shiksa? Not really. But at least it makes this collection something less than a complete waste of time. I realize I'm being a wee bit harsh here. I'm a fan of Meghan Daum's more current writing, and I also enjoyed her novel, The Quality of Life Report, so I'm not trying to imply that she's without talent. But if someone I knew were considering reading this particular book, I would tell them not to bother. From my perspective, many things from the 1990s have aged quite well, from Cindy Crawford to brown lipstick to Newsradio. My Misspent Youth is not one of those things.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Esther

    So although I was initially irritated by Ms. Daum's class-consciousness and the pretentiousness of it, on the other hand I really identified with her need to analyze why she was where she was by examining the contextual details, the outer trappings. Her speciality is finding the "ness" of all kind of nesses, something that is a bit of a personal hobby of mine as well. Like analyzing the upper class behaviors of middle class kids who to go to school with upper class kids to explain why she as a s So although I was initially irritated by Ms. Daum's class-consciousness and the pretentiousness of it, on the other hand I really identified with her need to analyze why she was where she was by examining the contextual details, the outer trappings. Her speciality is finding the "ness" of all kind of nesses, something that is a bit of a personal hobby of mine as well. Like analyzing the upper class behaviors of middle class kids who to go to school with upper class kids to explain why she as a successful writer is $75,000 in debt(at the time she wrote the essay). It's not merely a sign of irresponsibility although my financially successful friends may disagree. She explains all the things that led her there. The cultural mores of her circle, of the things going on in her life that were so specific and small as to seem insignificant yet significantly shaped the course of her life and got her in debt. I think about how most international school kids grow up with a chip on their shoulders of being proud of their otherness and how many of us cultivated and loved that exclusivity and how it sent me off on a strange trajectory to where I am now. I came back to the states for college and quickly attached myself to what looked like a version of my life in Japan in my Asian-Americans friends. I was, however, completely underwhelmed by American culture as seen through the lives of college students who decided to go to school thirty five minutes away from home. How could going to movies be the highlight of the week? and who cared which theater had better screens? The theater was empty and the crowd was all wearing Gap. I know, I know such a snob but in 1999 Japanese fashion was light speeds ahead and American girls had just discovered Carrie Bradshaw and apple maritinis. (The "fashionistas" were wearing Seven jeans and grasping Louis Vuitton pochettes, remember?) Fast-forward to now and American style has become once again trendsetting and sophisticated, I'll skip past my artsy, party girl era after college when I found "my tribe" of stylish, disenfranchised, intelligent, artistic types except to say that I've graduated from the heady days of cavorting, and I have a new receptive attitude towards normal. Non-threatening blandness seems relatively exotic to me in L.A. where everybody is trying to be somebody. I feel comforted by the well-adjusted and quiet lives of nine to fivers and revel in their steadiness. I find a sweetness in the naivete' of the unhip. They're harder to find now that irony has made everything previously uncool, cool and what was cool, uncool which can still be cool because uncool is cool. You know what I'm talking about. Of course it all seems to be an issue of thresholds once I meet my regularness quota or coolness quota or if I'm surrounded by only one thing I know I will become restless and start examining it anew.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gadi

    I don't know why I identified with Daum. Maybe I'm also obsessed with the trappings of life rather than its substance. I, too, pick my dreams based on a material understanding of things -- I strive for a life of hardwood floors, intellectual conversations -- a life of doing things for the sake of living. I related to all of her essays, even the snarky, supercilious ones -- especially those. It's too bad that so many of GR reviewers vilified the snobbishness in the writing -- because that's what I don't know why I identified with Daum. Maybe I'm also obsessed with the trappings of life rather than its substance. I, too, pick my dreams based on a material understanding of things -- I strive for a life of hardwood floors, intellectual conversations -- a life of doing things for the sake of living. I related to all of her essays, even the snarky, supercilious ones -- especially those. It's too bad that so many of GR reviewers vilified the snobbishness in the writing -- because that's what I thought made Daum so strong. She swung into every essay with her own predetermined set of opinions and attitudes and used them to transport the reader into her life, to see things from her viewpoint. And even then, she even disclaims about her own snobbishness -- she was, in fact, one of those Music Is My Bag kids, she was one of those losers who fall in love with an Internet persona, she was one of those people buried in thousands of dollars of debt. This entire collection exclaims, "I'm imperfect -- in fact, like the world around me, I'm pretty shitty." It's original and honest in a way not many books are. The style is smooth, fresh, cutting in a way that made me snigger. Daum's one of those writers who gets to the heart of her subjects -- or at least to the heart of her feelings on the subject -- which is something commendable. When discussing the family/colony of polyamorous lovers, she's not dismissive of their polyamory -- she's dismissive of how almost sheltered their lives are.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I first read and really liked Meghan Daum's essay, "Variations on Grief" in my non-fiction class. Also, I really like the essay, "On the Fringes of the Physical World." The essay, "My Misspent Youth" after which the book was titled is making me feel a lot better about the amount of debt I'm in, which seems to be less than the debt she was in at the time, and it's good to read a book of non-fiction by someone who wasn't like 88 years old when she decided to write it. Daum has an engaging voice, a I first read and really liked Meghan Daum's essay, "Variations on Grief" in my non-fiction class. Also, I really like the essay, "On the Fringes of the Physical World." The essay, "My Misspent Youth" after which the book was titled is making me feel a lot better about the amount of debt I'm in, which seems to be less than the debt she was in at the time, and it's good to read a book of non-fiction by someone who wasn't like 88 years old when she decided to write it. Daum has an engaging voice, and, in many ways, this book is very much about being young and growing up in the 90s and early 2000s. In the essay, "Variations on Grief," which is one of the best in the collection, Daum remembers how her friend's death was taking place during the Clinton's inauguration. In the essay "American Shiska" Daum analyzes why non-Jewish women are attracted to Jewish men and in "Music is my Bag" she talks about the culture of people who like the trappings of music and musicdom especially the Billy Joel wannabees and the band camp kids. I enjoyed most the essays in this collection that were interesting scathing revelations of who the author was, especially "On the Fringes of the Physical World" and 'Variations on Grief," but even in the essays that I didn't like as well I enjoyed getting Daum's take on the world. I just recently saw a few other essays but this author--online and in an anthology and read them both with interest. Definitely, I think that most nonfiction writers can learn from Daum. Unlike some nonfiction writers, Daum's writing is rarely too boring, and, although Daum is obviously very intelligent, her work doesn't suffer from the pretension and intellectual arrogance that marks some New Yorker style writing. I definitely want to read her other book and anything else she writes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Sometimes funny, sometimes clever, rarely particularly insightful. These are three-star essays, with the exception of "Inside the Tube" (a five-star read, even if it's a piece of journalism masquerading as essay): nothing too crazy, nothing too mundane, amusing enough, and Daum stays pretty damn honest. Her prose is pitch-perfect, but these are essays you'd read in magazines on planes. There's an audience here for Daum's brand of everywoman. It's just not me. Sometimes funny, sometimes clever, rarely particularly insightful. These are three-star essays, with the exception of "Inside the Tube" (a five-star read, even if it's a piece of journalism masquerading as essay): nothing too crazy, nothing too mundane, amusing enough, and Daum stays pretty damn honest. Her prose is pitch-perfect, but these are essays you'd read in magazines on planes. There's an audience here for Daum's brand of everywoman. It's just not me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Boo

    This book, what I read of it, is fine but it’s 20 years older and it shows.

  9. 4 out of 5

    notyourmonkey

    These essays' strengths are the author's skill in the writing craft - structure both in the macro (narrative) and micro (sentence) level. Damn can she pull an essay together. It's always nice to read someone who knows how to handle an ending. These essays' weaknesses are in the author's seeming inability to acknowledge her own failings without trying to justify those failings, in a backhanded, narrative-structure kind of way. I mean, good on her for actively acknowledging when she expresses idea These essays' strengths are the author's skill in the writing craft - structure both in the macro (narrative) and micro (sentence) level. Damn can she pull an essay together. It's always nice to read someone who knows how to handle an ending. These essays' weaknesses are in the author's seeming inability to acknowledge her own failings without trying to justify those failings, in a backhanded, narrative-structure kind of way. I mean, good on her for actively acknowledging when she expresses ideas, often about class but occasionally ethnicity, that are rooted in prejudice and stereotype and do not reflect well on her. That are unflattering. I am all for that kind of honesty, exposing one's ugly, raw bits on the page and thinking about them out loud. What I'm not so much for is then wrapping around to wink and nudge at, "well, when you really look at it, wasn't I kind of right? wasn't I kind of justified in sneering at [the poor/the helplessly bourgeoise/people who choose to live their lives differently from me]?" And to do that again and again, in essay after essay. The worst offender in this category for me was the essay on the polyamorous family who were also science fiction/fantasy fans of the tie-dyed wolf t-shirt/I am channeling the Norse pantheon/I have figurines of my gaming character variety. The author graciously finds it in herself not to dislike/pity them because they have unconventional sexual relationships; no, she pities them because she loathes their taste in books and they will (and I loosely quote) never know the joy of loving someone who has unfamiliar books on their bookshelves (which is a lesser sort of relationship, clearly). Now, she's not wrong about the joy that can be found in being introduced to new books/art/culture/whatever by someone you love, but it all just comes off as judging people who even she portrays as essentially pretty happy with their lifestyle and hobbies for not liking books that she likes. Oh gosh, these poor people who will never know the joys of literary fictions! Yes, as a science fiction and fantasy fan, as a geek, I'm a little sensitive on this. Even if the people described are probably not anyone I'd be clamoring to be BFF with, I cannot despise them because of their desire to seek people out who love the same things they love, no matter how much the narrative structure of the essay encourages me to. To be slightly more generous, I do wonder if some of these essays rub me quite as poorly as they do because of how dated they are. It is very, very clear these essays are well more than a decade old, and it's kind of fascinating by how many things that might have been outre or challenging initially are now kind of banal and HuffPo-y. Oooooh, online romance. How daring. How shocking to find out the person you created in your head based on correspondence can never be equaled by the actual human being. Oooooh, you've got massive student loans and consumer debt from a series of choices that made a sort of sense at the time but are crushing and crushingly illogical in retrospect. I get that with more honesty and more sympathy and more, I don't know, humanity from The Billfold on a daily basis. Basically, I think this book has been entirely trumped by the internet, even if the author is a damn sight more skilled than large swathes of the internet.

  10. 4 out of 5

    L

    This was recommended as a good warning against living beyond one's means. Sometimes essays elucidate issues, and sometimes they show a much deeper view at the writer themselves, and I'd say that for this collection, it was the latter. I found myself making sour faces at the book as I was reading at just what a neurotic, snobbish, self-obsessed person she was. Also, her investigative journalism was really, really lacking as you could hear her condescension dripping off the page, especially in the This was recommended as a good warning against living beyond one's means. Sometimes essays elucidate issues, and sometimes they show a much deeper view at the writer themselves, and I'd say that for this collection, it was the latter. I found myself making sour faces at the book as I was reading at just what a neurotic, snobbish, self-obsessed person she was. Also, her investigative journalism was really, really lacking as you could hear her condescension dripping off the page, especially in the section called according to women, I'm rather pretty about Ravenheart, the neopagan geeky poly family. She outright starts out with her derision of geeky subculture (and how when she was younger, she stood by and watched people bully a renn faire enthusiast with no guilt or thought to help them). And at the end, she still thinks geeks are weird, especially those wacky bisexual pagan poly family ones! She treats the poly family like a particularly disgusting bug she has to pick up with a piece of tissue paper, and that's really not fair. Especially how she views them as so strange and insular for sticking together, for daring to have sex and enjoy it, for practicing religion different than what she's known, for being geeky. She even says she can't comprehend what it's like to be bullied or feel the outcast like many of them admitted and judges them for being fannish and sticking with people who have the same interests. Man, Daum. I'd stick with Ravenheart any day over you. I was already digging Oberon with his A Song Of Ice And Fire shirt. They sound like a lot more fun than a stuck up prig like yourself. And then there's "carpet is mungers" where she admits to breaking up with a guy who treated her wonderfully because he...gasp! Liked carpet. No, this is not a double entendre for a hair down there, actual carpet. She sees carpet as a class issue and all her work is fraught with this neurotic classism and snobbishness, with constant looking down her nose at "blue collar people" who are horribly tacky and whatever else. I actually had to put a suspension of disbelief about the story on online dating, because I couldn't believe anyone would fall in love with her over her writing, given how self-absorbed her essays are. If anything, her essays made me want to never, ever meet her or read her again. To say nothing of "American Shiksa" and "Variations of Grief" where she weirdly feitishizes Jewish people and gives a very harsh representation of an old friend, even saying that his parents were to blame, and that his only purpose in life was to die. Oh, and throughout "Americah Shiksa" she basically equates all women wanting to be "bimbos." As for the title essay and wealth, I'm not sure that even helped as a cautionary tale. If anything, it only served to witness her own vanity and how expensive it can be to live in New York.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anders

    quick&dirty: Meghan Daum is great; this is a volume of essays that hasn't aged well. Read the highlights featuring her signature radical honesty and skip the rest. Daum's voice in this 2001 book of essays has since come to constitute the dominant tone for borderline thinky online journalism with presumptions towards literariness. Her influence can be readily detected in places like the Hairpin, the Awl, the Believer, and Grantland, that peer into pockets of unrepentant oddity, narrative voice st quick&dirty: Meghan Daum is great; this is a volume of essays that hasn't aged well. Read the highlights featuring her signature radical honesty and skip the rest. Daum's voice in this 2001 book of essays has since come to constitute the dominant tone for borderline thinky online journalism with presumptions towards literariness. Her influence can be readily detected in places like the Hairpin, the Awl, the Believer, and Grantland, that peer into pockets of unrepentant oddity, narrative voice straddling and integrating skepticism and curiosity, all in 8,000 words or less. Since its publication in 2001 we have seen the rise and fall of the hyper-earnest narrator, as Dave Eggers and Ira Glass reached and then passed their peaks of cultural influence. Granted, Daum herself has changed with the times, as her more recent work leads the charge towards radically honest, reflexively ethnographic personal writing. One of the strengths of this book is that it helps us reconstruct what it was like to be coming of age in 2001, when the internet was just starting to reorganize our interactions, before it had centralized and hyper-accelerated our cultural affiliations. One of the three more intriguing essays in the collection, "On the Fringes of the Physical World," take place right on this cusp, a pleasantly naive account of an attempt at finding real love on the internet, two categories which have since been blurred to incoherence. The other highlights, for me, were the other pieces that foreshadow her later preoccupation with self-excavation: "Variations on Grief," where a friend dies and she finds that being steeped in narratives about grief displaces her own response to a new sort of unrecognizable space, and "My Misspent Youth," about being young and overextended. Debt works literally and figuratively in this piece, where she wrestles with her desire for a 'literary life' that in late 90's NYC ends up being much more expensive than she imagined. To talk frankly about money, especially when not having it, remains a courageous and rare act, as it is still (perhaps even increasingly) entangled with notions of self-worth in this informalized "do what you love" economy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This was pretty good and I'm sure I'll go back to re-read some of these essays. What struck me is how DATED some of these essays feel (published in 2001, I think?). Some of the observations are kind of like, no kidding. Oh, conducting a romantic relationship through e-mail is fraught with peril and involves projecting fantasies upon the other person, while also projecting an inauthentic version of yourself? Good heavens, you don't say. Flying in an airplane is quite possibly the most fake, ar This was pretty good and I'm sure I'll go back to re-read some of these essays. What struck me is how DATED some of these essays feel (published in 2001, I think?). Some of the observations are kind of like, no kidding. Oh, conducting a romantic relationship through e-mail is fraught with peril and involves projecting fantasies upon the other person, while also projecting an inauthentic version of yourself? Good heavens, you don't say. Flying in an airplane is quite possibly the most fake, artificial environment there is outside of cruise ships and Disneyland? My word, I never would have thought of that. It's also a bit uncomfortable reading about airplane travel pre 9/11, like, ha ha, right, the artificiality of the environment, THAT'S what we should be thinking about. There are a couple of other essays that I guess were originally limited to print / crappy magazine websites at the time, so Daum clearly did not have to worry about getting ripped apart on social media. I was really surprised at at how "different" these essays read to me, compared to lot of current day Internet writing, but it's hard for me to describe exactly how. Maybe it's the fact that Daum does not shy away from using very specific observations to make broad generalizations about certain communities? (sci-fi geeks, music geeks, white women who work in publishing, white women "obsessed" with dating... Jewish men?) On one hand I'm torn, because that level of precise detail is precisely what makes so many sentences in this book so killer. It definitely achieves a bold, "take no prisoners" tone which is super enjoyable. But at the same time, sometimes I was definitely like, this... would not fly today, and maybe it should have been called into question in 2001 as well. I think the worst offender is the essay about white women who are obsessed with dating Jewish men. Just... yeesh. Is that seriously a niche that exists anywhere outside of a five-block radius in Manhattan? Write what you know, I guess? In summary, I would maybe recommend but I also see a lot of people getting "annoyed" by her.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Trudy

    I Hated this book. Which is a funny thing to say, seeing as how the thing that bugged me about the book was how relentlessly negative and judgmental Daum was about almost every subject she undertook. By the end, I was just so weary of her hating/being better than everything, I couldn't wait for it to be over. Which was a shame, because the last essay was written (formatted?) really interestingly and appealingly, but the emotions involved were just so repulsive, that after the whole book of appro I Hated this book. Which is a funny thing to say, seeing as how the thing that bugged me about the book was how relentlessly negative and judgmental Daum was about almost every subject she undertook. By the end, I was just so weary of her hating/being better than everything, I couldn't wait for it to be over. Which was a shame, because the last essay was written (formatted?) really interestingly and appealingly, but the emotions involved were just so repulsive, that after the whole book of approximately zero self-awareness, it didn't matter. Maybe all this was meant as satire? I'm not convinced. Also, my e-copy was typo-riddled, just making things worse.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anaïs

    I really liked this, disappointed in her recent work and politics.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fatima

    I have mixed feelings about these essays. I like the way she writes but I found the content to be boring at times like the airlines essay or the Ravenheart essay (my two least favorite ones). Quotes My addiction to PFSlider’s messages indicated a monstrous narcissism. But it also revealed a subtler desire that I didn’t fully understand at the time. My need to experience an old-fashioned kind of courtship was stronger than I had ever imagined. I have recently woken up to the frightening fallout of m I have mixed feelings about these essays. I like the way she writes but I found the content to be boring at times like the airlines essay or the Ravenheart essay (my two least favorite ones). Quotes My addiction to PFSlider’s messages indicated a monstrous narcissism. But it also revealed a subtler desire that I didn’t fully understand at the time. My need to experience an old-fashioned kind of courtship was stronger than I had ever imagined. I have recently woken up to the frightening fallout of my own romantic notions of life in the big city: I am completely over my head in debt. I have not made a life for myself in New York City. I have purchased a life for myself. I spent money on my education and my career. These are broad categories. There’s room here for copious rationalizations and I’ll make full use of them. I live in the most expensive city in the country because I have long believed, and had many people convinced, that my career was dependent upon it. I spend money on martinis and expensive dinners because, as is typical among my species of debtor, I tell myself that martinis and expensive dinners are the entire point—the point of being young, the point of living in New York City, the point of living. In this mind-set, the dollars spent, like the mechanics of a machine no one bothers to understand, become an abstraction, an intangible avenue toward self-expression, a mere vehicle of style. These days, being a creative person in New York is, in many cases, contingent upon inheriting the means to do it. But I’m capable of being extremely shallow, far more superficial that I’m often given credit for. People who must have wood floors are people who need to convey the message that they’re quite possibly better than most people. They’re people who leave the New York Review of Books on the coffee table but keep People in the bedroom. They’re people who say “I don’t need to read Time or Newsweek because I can get everything I need from the Times.” They’re people who would no sooner put the television

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    Meghan Daum is definitely one of my favourite American essayists that I have read. She has a hilarious and sharp writing voice, and is able to relate her opinion clearly and discuss the events within her writing very concretely. It kind of doesn't matter what topic she is discussing because she seems to map out the story for you has you go along (as any good essayist should) and you will never feel lost or confused about "what's the point" in her writing. I always get excited when/if the writing Meghan Daum is definitely one of my favourite American essayists that I have read. She has a hilarious and sharp writing voice, and is able to relate her opinion clearly and discuss the events within her writing very concretely. It kind of doesn't matter what topic she is discussing because she seems to map out the story for you has you go along (as any good essayist should) and you will never feel lost or confused about "what's the point" in her writing. I always get excited when/if the writing does seem to tangent that the ending will bring it all together in a beautifully unique way. To compare it, it would be akin to how David Sedaris is able to take huge leaps away from his plot and then ultimately bring you right back, full circle, to his original moment. I think that is the beauty of this style is that what might be said in one or two, boring paragraphs, is brought to life, with special moments, by writers like Daum and Sedaris. Daum was first brought to my attention after reading her piece on student debt and money issues, and I immediately sought out her collection. Though the story on debt remains my favourite, I have to say a close second is the one discussing flight attendants. I like that so many emotions can be had while reading her pieces; I found my self laughing, feeling pity, sadness, wonderment for the past, hate for parts of the present. I definitely recommend this book, or any of her essays, to those readers who like memoir style writing with flashes of dark wit and cynicism. Daum will not disappoint.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    It was such a relief to read this book because it was written by someone my age. Our puny generation--Generation X--is sandwiched between two monster generations (the Boomers and their offspring) and so our voices got kind of squashed along the way and now it's like we don't even exist. [Seriously: sometimes when a media giant does some sort of generations think-piece, they don't even list us anymore! We've been disappeared.] This came out in 2001, so a lot of it seems dated [land-line phones, no It was such a relief to read this book because it was written by someone my age. Our puny generation--Generation X--is sandwiched between two monster generations (the Boomers and their offspring) and so our voices got kind of squashed along the way and now it's like we don't even exist. [Seriously: sometimes when a media giant does some sort of generations think-piece, they don't even list us anymore! We've been disappeared.] This came out in 2001, so a lot of it seems dated [land-line phones, no social media, the fact that she could freely express herself without cowering in fear that someone would take something the wrong way and launch a campaign against her], but I really liked most of what she had to say and could understand all her references because I'm only two years older than she is. A couple of laughs, almost-tears at the end of Variations on Grief. Favorite essays: Carpet is Mungers, On the Fringes of the Physical World, and Variations on Grief. Happily, I found this in a little free library on the sidewalk. Looking forward to reading her newer books.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Margo Littell

    I first read this collection over twenty years ago, and I'm glad I revisited it. These essays are prickly, snobby, self-absorbed, insightful, mean-spirited, openhearted, heartbreaking--all of these. The most memorable for me are the ones that showcase a youthful arrogance--"Carpet Is Mungers," "Music Is My Bag." "My Misspent Youth" should be required reading for every twenty-something, but I'm not sure if I'd recommend it as a love story or a cautionary tale. Not all of these essays stand the te I first read this collection over twenty years ago, and I'm glad I revisited it. These essays are prickly, snobby, self-absorbed, insightful, mean-spirited, openhearted, heartbreaking--all of these. The most memorable for me are the ones that showcase a youthful arrogance--"Carpet Is Mungers," "Music Is My Bag." "My Misspent Youth" should be required reading for every twenty-something, but I'm not sure if I'd recommend it as a love story or a cautionary tale. Not all of these essays stand the test of time (especially "Inside the Tube," where the discontent with air travel seems quaint and rosy post-9/11), and Daum's more recent collection is much more nuanced, generous, and self-reflective, but this is a stunning collection nonetheless.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    2.5 star rating I really liked the beginning of this book. The essays were really well put together and she made her point without taking out her nerf bat and beating the reader over the head with it, like she did in some of the essays towards the back, which I didn't particularly care for and why it took me so long to finish this darn book. The essays that I would recommend reading the book for are: 1. Publishing and Other Near-Death Experiences 2. Toy Children 3. Inside The Tube The others I would j 2.5 star rating I really liked the beginning of this book. The essays were really well put together and she made her point without taking out her nerf bat and beating the reader over the head with it, like she did in some of the essays towards the back, which I didn't particularly care for and why it took me so long to finish this darn book. The essays that I would recommend reading the book for are: 1. Publishing and Other Near-Death Experiences 2. Toy Children 3. Inside The Tube The others I would just leave alone, unless you like that kind of punishment in book form.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Halley Sutton

    Very well-written essays that sometimes irritated me by the late 20sish (yes, I'm aware I'm 28) inability to accept passion or enthusiasm as anything other than "uncool." God forbid anyone should be engaged by anything in life other than being the TYPE of person who listens to NPR and prefers hardwood floors. But then, perhaps that was more about my own personal prejudices as a reader. Anyway, gets four stars because the last essay about grieving her friend is really, truly, deeply, complicatedl Very well-written essays that sometimes irritated me by the late 20sish (yes, I'm aware I'm 28) inability to accept passion or enthusiasm as anything other than "uncool." God forbid anyone should be engaged by anything in life other than being the TYPE of person who listens to NPR and prefers hardwood floors. But then, perhaps that was more about my own personal prejudices as a reader. Anyway, gets four stars because the last essay about grieving her friend is really, truly, deeply, complicatedly excellent.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I started this book with the promise that it would make me say "Finally, someone gets how I feel". What was delivered was a mixture of "Yes, that's exactly it" but also sheer wonder and fascination to topics I had thought about, found repelling and not investigated further. With witty confusing and yet intriguing titles, some essays made me go "yes" and some others "oh. I started this book with the promise that it would make me say "Finally, someone gets how I feel". What was delivered was a mixture of "Yes, that's exactly it" but also sheer wonder and fascination to topics I had thought about, found repelling and not investigated further. With witty confusing and yet intriguing titles, some essays made me go "yes" and some others "oh.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ericka Clou

    An interesting essay collection that makes you think about single life in New York City and life in general.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Rubenstein

    This is the second book that Meghan has written and that I've read. I think she can f'ing write. She writes in a way that on the surface you may judge her for being judgy, only to later understand she's really judging herself. I think she's an expert at showing you the truth many layers deep. Here are a few of my favorite passages from this book: "None of these actions or examples, weighed on their own, register enough scandal to send the airlines into collapse. As sensational as some of them are This is the second book that Meghan has written and that I've read. I think she can f'ing write. She writes in a way that on the surface you may judge her for being judgy, only to later understand she's really judging herself. I think she's an expert at showing you the truth many layers deep. Here are a few of my favorite passages from this book: "None of these actions or examples, weighed on their own, register enough scandal to send the airlines into collapse. As sensational as some of them are, these are the exceptions that prove the rule that most flight attendants are regular people with regular aspirations, many of which do not require business cards at all. But the fact that such tales are recounted so readily, both by people outside of the job and by flight attendants themselves, reveals a trait that is shared by just about everyone who works in the air. As the remoteness of the sky threatens to render them something less than human, they have no choice but to make themselves almost exaggeratedly human, hyperreal characters who rely on wild behavior and raunchy mythologies in order to outsmart the numbing effects of the airplane." "This is a neat trick, this business of utter detachment from everything less than great that goes on, this position of being perched on a cartoon drawing of a crescent moon, looking down at all the lonely people, all the stupid ones with their souls so foolishly close to the linings of their coats." "I liked Brian because he had nothing to do with the passage of time. He was immune to maturity, resistant to forward motion. He existed the way childhood homes are supposed to and never do, as a foundation that never shifts, a household that never gets new wallpaper, or turns your bedroom into a study, or is sold in exchange for a condo in Florida." "I would do anything necessary to participate in what I considered to be life, which, to me, meant getting up extremely early and doing things like putting all the apartment’s trash into a small plastic bag, which I would throw out on the way to the club to go swimming, after which I would go to work, and for lunch go to the gourmet deli on Forty-sixth Street, where I would tap my fingers on the counter if the people in front of me were taking too long to order, because I had somewhere to be, because I was impressively busy with this thing called life, because I was sternly committed to the pursuit of whatever was the opposite of death."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    A curious little book of essays whose style has resonated deeply in the 20 years it was published, kicking off the Personal Essay boom of someone looking witheringly within and reporting back what they saw, damn what the reader (or the other people perhaps affected by its publication) would think. Daum is a great writer - sparse and precise - and she is also an asshole (I don't know if she'd use that exact term but I also doubt she'd mind too much either) and she's also fine telling you about it A curious little book of essays whose style has resonated deeply in the 20 years it was published, kicking off the Personal Essay boom of someone looking witheringly within and reporting back what they saw, damn what the reader (or the other people perhaps affected by its publication) would think. Daum is a great writer - sparse and precise - and she is also an asshole (I don't know if she'd use that exact term but I also doubt she'd mind too much either) and she's also fine telling you about it. It's not particularly surprising to learn in the last few years, she has become one of those brittle Gen-X women writers who doesn't understand WHY we have to care about intersectionality and that we all need to toughen up in the face of sexual assault. It's a shame, but she presents herself unflinchingly as a rigid, ambitious white suburban princess of New Jersey so what, reader, were, you suspecting? All that said, a handful of the essays I adored, hit some level of home and honestly I truly haven't seen before. I had to put down "Music Is My Bag" several times to lie my head on the table because it is a furious ethnography of the type of massively self-important classical music dork that happens to make up the vast majority of my dad's side of the family. "Variations on Grief" is a hard but beautiful read on how sometimes we badly rationalize a death - I can see why many people absolutely hate it but again, I have never read anything like it, prodding some old icky cold feelings I had shuttered away. Then there's absolute shit like "American Shiksa" which the less is said about the better and a rather boring, long look at airline stewardesses that mostly makes you think, "Eh, I bet that's all a lot worse now."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Really interesting essays, she has a really unique way of expressing herself and talking about her life. In this case her misspent youth!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Norton

    Superb reprint of essays from the 90s, which are bearing up well. Only the one about on-line relationships (via email, rather than "social media", which wasn't yet a thing) is dated, and not terribly. In a new Foreword, Daum happily admits that the title essay got her flak at the time, with accusations of entitlement, narcissism etc. and she'd be attacked even more for a gross display of white privilege if she wrote it today. Essentially Lena Dunham made it into a sitcom. But she's simply being Superb reprint of essays from the 90s, which are bearing up well. Only the one about on-line relationships (via email, rather than "social media", which wasn't yet a thing) is dated, and not terribly. In a new Foreword, Daum happily admits that the title essay got her flak at the time, with accusations of entitlement, narcissism etc. and she'd be attacked even more for a gross display of white privilege if she wrote it today. Essentially Lena Dunham made it into a sitcom. But she's simply being honest about the world she wanted to be in, and all the social signifiers and codes attached to it. Her essays about polyamory and "Music Is My Bag" and "American Shiksa" show a similar sensitivity to the rules that govern small worlds. "Variations On Grief" doersn't flinch and doesn't pretend to be other than another exercise in story-construction itself.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Paolantonio

    A slim collection of essays originally published in 2001, I read these for their craft and not their content. Meghan Daum complains a lot and I see that in the reviews listed here. She is a writer that gets to the point but her ability to whine is impressive. The topics she wrote about were interesting but dated, so they read like a time capsule (see: flight attendants and polyamorous lovers). Having spent only a year working in publishing myself, her take on it was the same it always is for peo A slim collection of essays originally published in 2001, I read these for their craft and not their content. Meghan Daum complains a lot and I see that in the reviews listed here. She is a writer that gets to the point but her ability to whine is impressive. The topics she wrote about were interesting but dated, so they read like a time capsule (see: flight attendants and polyamorous lovers). Having spent only a year working in publishing myself, her take on it was the same it always is for people. Particularly in the essay "Music Is My Bag" she wrote about the subculture of musicians of the high school all-state band persuasion (her father is a composer-musician and her mother a musician and music educator, her siblings also are musicians) and how she hated the group of people and how "into" music and "being into music" they were felt obnoxious, despite her participation in the world until her senior year of college. As someone who spends 85% of their life reading and writing about music, consuming all music related things, I've never once in my life heard of "Music Is My Bag" as a saying. She says it came from a tote bag pun, but otherwise the phrase she tried to "make happen" in this essay that I was most interested in simply because of music, fell flat. A lot of this book is obnoxious. But it was such a quick read, easy to pick up and put down, and to get a writer's head in the mode to do the same on the page. Her other work, The Unspeakable, which I read when it came out, was much more crafted and interesting. Daum is easily one of the best working creative nonfiction/essayists in "the business." She is an interesting woman that chose a career over being a mother (and edited a collection of writing by writers who chose not to have children) and I vibe with that. AND I like to keep tabs on successful female nonfiction writers. But if people who complain for no reason annoy you, this book is not for you.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leslieann Santiago

    This book was interesting to say the least. I read it because I want to write a book of essays myself and read some really good reviews on it. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone. I did not like the author's personality or the tone of the book. I felt like she was judgmental and gave me the impression she thought she was better than a lot of people. My next issue was some of the pointless, ineffective chapters. Such as her chapter on carpets, which was basically shaming people who This book was interesting to say the least. I read it because I want to write a book of essays myself and read some really good reviews on it. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone. I did not like the author's personality or the tone of the book. I felt like she was judgmental and gave me the impression she thought she was better than a lot of people. My next issue was some of the pointless, ineffective chapters. Such as her chapter on carpets, which was basically shaming people who have that type of flooring in their home. My next issue is the grammar errors. I found one misspelling and one mix up of words, which lessens her credibility for me. Overall I didn't get anything from this book, except the feelings that I can definitely write and publish a more effective book of short essays. There was no life lesson to be learned and no feelings of relation to my own life or soul. This book should have just been another opinions blog. It honestly could have even just been some tweets. I did learn some things I never knew, like about the life of a flight attendant and the world of polyamorous couples. But again, I didn't need a book to teach me these things. Meghan served basically as a form of wikipedia. Thanks girl, but no thanks.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mariah Kelly

    Although Meghan Daum is by far an incredibly talented writer, she is a superficial, miserable sod and a bully. This book left a bad taste in my mouth. Hooked from chapter one to three, her clever knack of writing had me devoutly turning pages. Unfortunately, for me, her storytelling and way with words was spoilt by her judgement and perspective. It doesn’t take long for Daum’s true colours to appear subtly through her various negative accounts of “mediocre” people she encounters. Daum is painfull Although Meghan Daum is by far an incredibly talented writer, she is a superficial, miserable sod and a bully. This book left a bad taste in my mouth. Hooked from chapter one to three, her clever knack of writing had me devoutly turning pages. Unfortunately, for me, her storytelling and way with words was spoilt by her judgement and perspective. It doesn’t take long for Daum’s true colours to appear subtly through her various negative accounts of “mediocre” people she encounters. Daum is painfully shallow, closed-minded and perhaps narcissistic (at least she admits it). Speaking as someone with a taste for fine things and luxuries myself, I wanted to relate to Meghan. Only these essays become hard to enjoy reading while she spits fire at anyone outside of her class.. She is an elitist, a New York snob. After reading such poisonous opinions on humble matters, I wanted to boycott this book and bin it half way through. I only continued reading in hopes that she would redeem herself or justify her thoughts in the final pages —She did not.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Josh Friedlander

    If you've ever been captivated by the romance of the Manhattan publishing world and wished yourself to be living in an oak-floored pre-war brownstone, smoking and discussing art, literature and life with similarly-minded people, this book will give you a vicarious thrill while simultaneously disabusing you of those ideals (unless you have a trust fund, you will end up in horrendous debt, because NYC publishing jobs don't pay NYC publishing rent. Also, there are no jobs in publishing in 2014 anyw If you've ever been captivated by the romance of the Manhattan publishing world and wished yourself to be living in an oak-floored pre-war brownstone, smoking and discussing art, literature and life with similarly-minded people, this book will give you a vicarious thrill while simultaneously disabusing you of those ideals (unless you have a trust fund, you will end up in horrendous debt, because NYC publishing jobs don't pay NYC publishing rent. Also, there are no jobs in publishing in 2014 anyway because the internet destroyed everything.) Daum's writing is engaging and workmanlike, but not profound.

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