A Manhattan-centric, playful collection of essays from a young writer searching for authenticity in a material world.
Born in 1970, Daum (whose essays have appeared in the New Yorker and Harper’s) introduces herself as a Gen-Xer in desperate pursuit of the poshness associated with Manhattan’s elite. These ten essays focus primarily on the author’s life—the trivial world of an egotistical, self-proclaimed shiksa—ranging from subjects like Visa card debt to online romance to her aversion to wall-to-wall carpeting. Daum’s candid voice is at once engaging, blithe, and pretentious as she describes her determination to attend Ivy League schools, where she happily assimilated into the highbrow culture of her wealthy classmates. Readers who abandoned suburban homes to pursue low-paying glamour professions in the Big Apple may relate to living in denial (of student loans) and in hope (of finding an affordable apartment), but Daum’s endless whining about her inability to live within her means will tax anyone’s patience in short order. Her choice of topics reveals her youth—many essays seem to emerge from her school experiences. She’s at her best when recalling unique and highly personal events, such as her romantic expectations of the infatuated fan who contacted her via e-mail, and the seemingly heartless way in which she reacted to the death of an underachiever friend. The two journalistic pieces (one concerning the unconventional lives of American flight attendants, the other on a Northern California cult that justifies promiscuity with homespun spirituality) aim for shock value but fall flat as she rambles, incongruously, about her childhood recollections of practicing the oboe, destroying her baby dolls, and flirting with Jewish boys.
Promising, but hampered by jejune subject matter, Daum fails to hit her target.