A Los Angeles Times columnist unflinchingly probes some of her life’s themes—“death, dogs, romance, children, lack of children [and] Joni Mitchell”—to find respite from “sentimentality and its discontents.”
In this collection of 10 essays, Daum (Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in that House, 2010, etc.) takes a look at her past, not with the goal of exposing past sins, but of exploring “the tension between primal reactions and public decorum.” She opens the book and sets the tone with “Matricide,” a piece about the death of the mother she both loved and hated. Daum neither eulogizes her mother nor seeks false solace in positive memories. Rather, she focuses on the way she packed up her mother’s apartment just before she died, thinking “how great it would be if she were hit by, say, the M7 express on Columbus Avenue and killed instantly and painlessly.” Daum leavens the discomfort her frankness sometimes provokes with quirkiness and humor. In “The Best Possible Experience,” she writes about how, in her youthful quest “to live with authenticity” and “respect the randomness of life,” she once dated a man who sought his truths in astrology and believed that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. In early middle age and before her happy but childless-by-choice marriage, Daum became what, in another essay, she calls an “honorary dyke”—a short-haired woman who owned a dog that was “effectively [her] boyfriend,” drove a Subaru station wagon and was often taken for a lesbian. In another piece, she considers her obsession with Joni Mitchell, a singer whom many perceive as the “mouthpiece for romance-crazed girls everywhere” but whom Daum sees as “the ultimate antiromantic” and a kind of emotional kindred spirit. Sharp, witty and illuminating, Daum’s essays offer refreshing insight into the complexities of living an examined life in a world hostile to the multifaceted face of truth.
An honest and humorously edgy collection.