CACA DOLCE by Chelsea  Martin


Essays from a Lowbrow Life
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A portrait of the artist as a moody teen.

“When someone suggested I was cool,” writes Martin (Mickey, 2016, etc.) by way of introduction, “I couldn’t help but think, What the fuck is your problem?” It’s a good organizing question as, at only 30, the author takes a hard look at her youth, chronicling the tumult and hardship that modern American life visits on the young, thanks mostly to the regrettable behavior of grown-ups who are scarcely grown themselves: "Seth and my mom fought a lot. Yelling and stomping around, mostly, but sometimes the fights became physically aggressive, and they would throw things or grab each other or make physical threats.” Readers might rightly be flummoxed, in any event, at a book that opens with a confession to having a first sexual experience at the age of 6, courtesy of a terrible slasher/horror film: “I attributed it to Chucky,” Martin writes matter-of-factly, “the evil sentient doll.” The author recounts a life alternately spent alone in her bedroom, making mix tapes and collages (“I knew I had something to say, but I didn’t trust myself to find the right way to say it yet”), and being wistfully, self-doubtfully in love with boys who didn’t know she existed. In other words, it’s the sort of thing with which any sensitive reader who has suffered through adolescence will feel sympathetic recognition. The story levels off in early adulthood, with still more confusions and failings and clumsy moments: “I mostly wanted to eat Jeppe’s burger, because Ian had ordered his with mayonnaise and I hated mayonnaise, but I couldn’t pass up the thrill of eating from two men’s burgers at the same time.” That episode ends on a note of furious discovery that is unexpected but entirely appropriate.

Martin seldom goes deep, but the arc of growing self-awareness lends the story both gravity and an odd appeal.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-59376-677-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2017


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