An arch essay collection about the ups and downs of the writing life.
Now 10 books into his career, Orcutt (The Ronald and Other Plays, 2017, etc.) has accumulated a rich reservoir of experiences and insights into the writing process. He shares these in his first memoir, a lighthearted collection of amusing anecdotes and reflections on his way of working. Several of the experiences will be familiar to readers—a young romance, an uncomfortable doctor’s visit, a return to old stomping grounds. Others, like the author’s visit to a Thomas Kinkade exhibit or an infestation of ladybugs, run further afield. Many of these essays are platforms for Orcutt to reflect on his inspirations for writing, from people he’s met to philosophy classes he took in college. Whether he’s exploring the extraordinary or the everyday, the narrator’s personality is apparent throughout—he doesn’t back down from an argument. He is the kind of person who tells people to be quiet in movie theaters, the one who rebukes strangers for not tipping their waitresses: “Why am I always the one who has to speak up?” It’s obvious to readers that Orcutt thrives on confrontation. But if his personality is combative, his prose is the opposite. Orcutt’s writing style is lighthearted and conversational, and he treats arguments with an easy humor. In the essay “Absentminded,” for example, in which Orcutt moves swiftly through a variety of encounters in which he benefited from his own forgetfulness, an abundance of rhetorical charm compensates for a lack of thematic depth. Whether or not readers agree with Orcutt’s life choices, they are sure to find him a vibrant character and enjoyable writer.
Quirky reflections on a writer’s unusual conflicts make for a quick and amusing read.