Kirkus Reviews QR Code
I CAN'T COMPLAIN by Elinor Lipman

I CAN'T COMPLAIN

(All Too) Personal Essays

By Elinor Lipman

Pub Date: April 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0547576206
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Accomplished novelist Lipman (Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus, 2012, etc.) exposes her journalistic roots by collecting over 30 “(all too) personal” essays and columns that have appeared in a number of periodicals.

Dating back about 20 years, these mostly light pieces examine her family’s foibles, the craft and business of writing, romance, and, somewhat surprisingly, given the rest of the volume’s rather acerbic tone, moving reflections on her husband’s tragic illness and the author’s life after his death. In each piece, no matter how brief, Lipman tackles the subject at hand with Dorothy Parker–esque wit and verve. The author’s good-spirited openness and self-awareness shine through in pieces on her childhood (she happily dishes about her mother’s condiment-phobia), her willingness to hold grudges and the stages of her son’s development. She also describes the peaks and valleys of decades living with a kind man whose tastes and “midlife fastidiousness,” especially when it came to dress and household clutter, sometimes got the better of her. Particularly keen are Lipman’s observations on writing, covering topics ranging from the naming of characters—“Nomenclature done right contributes to characterization”—to the authorial use of food as a “narrative helpmate” and a frank rumination on the politics of blurbing. Confessing her proclivity to promote the work of others, Lipman explains, “I am giving back. Critics have been described as people who go into the street after battle and shoot the wounded. No blurb can be a bulletproof vest, but in my own experience it can put a square inch of Kevlar over a worried writer’s heart.”

A feast of bite-sized morsels of humor and wisdom.