A compendium of personal essays and cartoons about heartbreak, penned by 23 contemporary American writers.
Editor Taeckens, publicity director for Algonquin Books, gathers a disparate group to share their private travails about love gone wrong. The authors range from married to single, straight to gay and transgendered, and they describe vastly different periods of their lives, from Patty Van Norman’s messily scrawled childhood breakup letter (“Dear Ugly and Dear Fatso”) to Jami Attenberg’s cynical account of a near-reconciliation with a cheating boyfriend, composed in the second person. Many of the stories voice a shared sentiment—a desire to be loved the way the authors have always wanted. Standouts include Junot Díaz’s “Homecoming, with Turtle,” Gary Shteyngart’s “Texas” and Maud Newton’s “Conversations You Have at Twenty.” Humorist Dan Kennedy, author of the acerbic 2008 memoir Rock On, crafts a hilarious piece about dating a divorced aerobics instructor a decade older than he, but Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s account of devoting a year to matching his age (25) with casual sex partners falls flat. In “Leave Me Something When You Leave Me,” Brock Clarke experiments with repetition, but the result is a grating mess with none of the dark wit that distinguished his acclaimed 2007 novel, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England. Kate Christensen writes sparingly of the affair she almost had with a sophomoric high-school teacher, who didn’t recognize her after she gained weight. Taeckens contributes an account of his unhealthy entanglement with a cheating teacher (not his). Other contributors include Lynda Barry, Jennifer Finney Boylan and Emily Flake.
As is often true of anthologies, uneven but rewarding and worth dipping into from time to time.