Single, Carefree, Mellow is a short story collection by Katherine Heiny about different women navigating through love, life and insecurities.
I was quite excited to get this book after reading from many how great the book was. Unfortunately, I was perhaps expecting something different than what I got and I was left wondering if the title was supposed to be ironic. I had expected truly funny, honest looks into different women from all walks of life and got a bit of the opposite with repeated treks back to Maya, who simply wasn’t interesting enough to hold my attention. Additionally, the theme of infidelity was a constant throughout the book with all parties having little to no remorse or consideration regarding themselves or others. I usually love what could be considered “unlikable” traits in characters but after a while, the affairs began to run into each other. If these were to be tales of wonderfully human women, I wish they had been more diverse in plots and the type of women being given a voice.
But all was not lost because there was the delightful segment “That Dance You Do” about a mother just trying to get through her child’s birthday party. The story was wonderfully written and I wish there had been this kind of variety in the other stories.
While Single, Carefree, Mellow wasn’t particularly my cup of tea, I think many will enjoy it and have!
Thank you to Net Galley and Knopf for the chance to read and review!
Originally posted on GoodReads.
Yesterday, I saw a documentary film called Dreams of a Life [watch the trailer here], starring a mesmerizing Zawe Ashton. Part documentary, part reenactment, it tells the story of Joyce Vincent, an English woman who died December 2003 surrounded by Christmas presents she was wrapping with the television on and whose body wasn’t discovered until 2006 when officials came to repossess the flat where she lay after the banking account automatically paying her bills finally ran out of money. Nothing was known about Joyce when she was discovered other than her name, not even a photo in the paper, and so the filmmaker sought out her friends and family through ads. Many began to call inquiring if it was “their Joyce” whom she was asking about.
The film examines “how did this happen?” through reenactments and interviews with Joyce’s friends, boyfriends and coworkers. Her family declined to be interviewed on camera, only giving a statement revealed in the behind the scenes documentary saying her estrangement was as much of a mystery to them as it was for the filmmaker (and my only real complaint being there were things in the behind the scenes documentary which should have been in the film).
Joyce Vincent was, through recollections, a popular, bubbly, poised woman whose beauty was noted by everyone interviewed. Any negativity is minimal, the worst being she tended to be lazy and didn’t like to clean. She was popular with men and women, with men wanting to date her and one friend saying she wanted to be her. For all intents and purposes, something like this should not have happened to someone like her.
Interviews with her friends prove to be baffling- they are quick to talk about her beauty and clothing and her love of singing and music, but they also admit to knowing very little of her life. As a friend states, “she had no past.” Joyce often didn’t want to talk of herself, which included doting sisters with whom she had become estranged, and she tended to become completely engrossed in her partners’ lives. Some knew of a violent relationship near the end of her life, and that she fled to a shelter, but nearly all seemed surprised to discover she had been living in a bedsit at the time of her death, as opposed to a middle class home. She lived in the present while hiding and lying about her private life, and growing more and more isolated as she entered her thirties. Even as her friends’ eyes shine bright with amusement and love when discussing her, the blankness and shock when the filmmaker talks about her private life is startling. Joyce Vincent, to even her friends, was an enigma.
The filmmaker makes the choice to only depict Joyce in reenactments, leaving photos to blurry glimpses. An all too brief audio file of her speaking jolts her friends when played, some becoming emotional, some laughing, some stunned, and one debating the authenticity of the file. The moment is an engrossing one, and along with the often laughing tales and affectionate smiles, show that Joyce was loved, which makes her end even more troubling.
Those expecting a resolution in the documentary are sure to be disappointed- the only conclusion is Joyce Vincent is gone, she continues to be a mystery, and her secrets and truth died with her. There are no answers, just more questions.
Dreams of a Life is a daunting, tragic document of the fragility of relationships, whether they be romantic, friendship or familial, self-isolation, the loneliness of illness and death, and how well do we really know and care for the people we love. The final shot in the film is haunting, and that, along with the film will likely stay with me for a while. It left me feeling different, and not in a good way. This is a film which will make you reexamine your connections with those you love and just how fragile life and our relationships can really be.
Veronica Mars is back for another case and it’s a doozy. Mr. Kiss and Tell was a highly enjoyable and quick read. The subject matter is extremely dark and authors Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham handle the case with an appropriate sensitivity.
As in the first book, there’s strength in her interactions with her father and friends. Her interactions with both Logan and Weevil are given time to shine and shine they do. Specifically, Veronica’s relationship with Logan is one of maturity, love, and yes, a lingering sadness but it definitely works in all its (in their way) traditionally heartbreaking glory. Weevil’s entire plot is both heartbreaking and complicated and one I hope to see continue or at least spotlighted in future books.
Veronica herself is wonderful in MKAT. She maintains her signature fire and wit with an adult edge. She is still the moody, driven, complicated character we all grew to love in the show and film and she’s just a glorious heroine. Thomas and Graham do an excellent job of keeping her human and real.
The book definitely sets up future installments and I genuinely can’t wait for more if they choose to continue the series. I’ve already pre-ordered MKAT and this will very likely be one book I come back to.
Thank you to Doubleday for giving me the opportunity to review.
Originally posted on GoodReads.
For this prompt:
Every day, the Raven visits the dove. She wiggles her finger at the dove, smiles at the dove, whistles her song to the dove. She even feeds the dove, opens a window for the dove, lets sunlight hit the dove.
The dove is her possession.
The dove used to walk on two limbs, now he walks on four. The dove wouldn’t stop trying to escape, so she made sure he needed four instead of two. He won’t escape again.
The dove used to be able to pace his cage, but he tried to escape. So he must crouch, his fingers trailing the ground.
The dove refused to eat the bread, so now he must settle for seeds.
The doveDaniel kept squawking and squawking, so the RavenRachel put something special in his water. And she removed his squawking box when he fell unconscious in his tiny cage.
DoveDaniel used to smile and laugh and mock and threaten and abuse. Now he cries when he remembers emotions.
Daniel pecked The Raven’s blood. So The RavenRachel had to peck back.
Rachel told Daniel not to peck her. And so now Rachel’s cage was Daniel’s.
Recent events have compelled me to talk about this in the event that it could help someone or anyone or even myself, eventually.
There are facts: As long as I can remember, I’ve always been sad. Rather, I’ve always had highs and very intense lows. I don’t like the word “depressed,” I don’t enjoy that word. But there are facts. I love my friends and my family but I’d always prefer solitude and daydreaming. Compliments have always made me extremely uncomfortable because I don’t feel I deserve them. While I do think I may have a gift in writing, I also don’t think I’m good enough to fully branch out so fear keeps me from really trying. I don’t like looking in the mirror. I’m largely insecure for many reasons, one of them being the voice in my head telling me how unworthy I am of love or affection or whatever else. I constantly feel left behind because I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough, not worthwhile of relationships and friendships, and so on.
Also a fact: I am the happiest unhappy person. I am a good actress. I can fake being cheerful, which I began doing as a child to keep my parents from worrying as they fought and struggled. I don’t like to make people worry. I don’t like to complain because I don’t want to bother people. I learned to be a doer and impulsively would want to make people happy so they would like me. I didn’t like to disappoint people because it just reaffirmed what I already knew.
Even when people told me otherwise, I didn’t believe them. I still don’t. It’s a vicious cycle of self-hate and a heavy weight on my whole body.
But I can and have been genuinely happy. I have this very childlike happiness when something really excites me. I have days where I’m just really okay and everything is great. I wish these days happened more than they do.
As I said before, I have intense lows. It can be best described as swimming in ink. Very dark, very hard to get out of, not completely able to get out of it. These are bad days. Recently, it’s been more than a bad day. It’s been days. I only get out of bed because I have to, so I don’t disappoint people. I look sad, according to my mother. My body is hurting a lot more, the headaches are more frequent. I had to force myself to wash my hair so people don’t notice. I’ve had to stop myself from crying too many times to count, thought about getting sick and death too many times to count. I’ve been more increasingly angry at myself for not writing or doing what I want to do because I’d rather lay in bed. It’s drowning in darkness.
I’ve tried to “fix” it. Watch things that make me laugh, converse with the friends who always amuse me and make me laugh. Do things that bring me joy. Force myself to be happy and peppy. I try to be creative. Try to pick myself up and completely immerse myself in things and people which make me happy. It’s a desperate thing, feeling yourself decline and trying your hardest to get out of it. It’s a frustrating, demoralizing thing.
At this point, I’m unsure with what to do. It’s the worst it’s been in a while and I can fake it ’til I make it but I don’t want to live like this until my body gives out, I have a breakdown, or I just give up. I could pay for therapy I will go to for one session and then stop, I can call a hotline and say nothing, I can keep writing about it, or I can just try to focus on other things until the real me comes back and I can be genuinely cheerful and okay again.
But I know this is something that can be beaten, I know it’s something that doesn’t have to control me. I know I’m not alone. Life is beautiful and I know it can be a happy one if possible. It’s just hard sometimes for reasons I can’t begin to understand. And even then, others have it much, much worse than I, so I should be extremely grateful, even over this I can’t control. I don’t ask for concern or pity because I don’t want it when others need it more.
It’s taken me a lot to write this and I don’t know if it could help anyone but in case it can for people to know they are not alone, this is here. Hopefully, I will reach the surface eventually and anyone else struggling can too. We all deserve to.
If anyone needs it: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
My father passed away from cancer on May 26th, 2010 somewhere around 7am, the hospital called me at around 7:10am to tell me. It was super sunny and bright outside in New York. I still remember that. It’s now going to be four years later and the mantra of “it’ll get better” that was repeated to me consistently throughout the first year continues to bang around in my head even though the truth is, it doesn’t get better. You don’t get over it, you just learn to tolerate it.
No one tells you that. It’s just a rush to make you feel better, but no one talks about the hole that doesn’t go away. I still tend to avert my eyes from a dad playing, hugging, kissing his daughter, without realizing I’m doing it. I avoid looking at pictures of him except on days to be acknowledged. I still get a heavy weight and edginess on my entire psyche in the weeks before the anniversary of his passing. Even four years later, I tend to forget he’s gone when the Mets lose a game and I want to gloat. Sometimes, I think I’m going crazy when I can hear him right before I go to sleep and then I’m awake again, wide awake.
There’s a faint panic and then a dull acknowledgement that should I get married, he won’t be there, nor will he ever see any future children. There’s a shocking and fear-filled acknowledgement of my mother’s mortality and of my own. There’s still a dull anger, a dull grief, a dull “oh there it is” when you think you’re doing all right. There’s that. I’m not saying it to be depressing or to bum people out but it’s a truth. It’s my truth.
And I’m no one special. This occurs to millions upon millions of people and for the most part, no one talks about it. Rosie O’Donnell said a bit back that when you lose a parent, you’re a part of a club. It’s not a club anyone talks about and there’s no meetings and cookies and punch, but it’s there. One of the first things my old friends decided to talk about, unprompted, at his funeral was about their own fathers’ passings and how they dealt with it. It’s just how it goes.
It’s important for people to know it’s a tolerable, yet bizarre feeling, the grief. You just accept it, knock back a shot and jump on the mechanical bull or into the pool or whatever the hell strikes you as a good time. So we’re counting down to four years in eleven days and it will suck but then it’ll get better. I usually hate the philosophical and feel good shit but this tweet struck me as especially true:
I do believe it. Good and beauty is around us and even bad things like grief can be good because it still means you’re alive. It’s all real and pure. Your strength is in every step you take even with that sometimes brutal pain, lack of closure, bitter anger and so on. It’s okay to feel it but you also have to go forward. And so I will do that.
For this prompt:
Okay, but let’s be clear. The tears weren’t the reason why Rosa sunk her teeth into her boyfriend’s neck, or why she bludgeoned him to death with an angel table statue. The blood red tears- actually, the blood, it was blood- didn’t cause anything. The virus did. The tears were a result of the virus, and the attack was a result of the virus.
Just to be clear.
The illness that had overtaken their Queens community was swift and sudden. People dropping like flies, parents rushing their children to the hospitals, body bags being rolled out of apartments one by one like on a conveyor belt.
Will had figured out before Rosa had that something was terribly wrong. He would, he was the doctor of the two. Rosa was ordered to call out from her hostess job at that restaurant that had just opened and that was a good job, she was sure her boss wouldn’t be pleased but she called out anyway.
Will asked her if she was okay going home and she had said yes. Sure, there were people being a bit hysterical and looking sickly but this was New York, everyone was a bit hysterical and always looking sickly. They paid out of their ass for this experience.
A homeless woman had grabbed her arm as she tried to get on the train after talking to Will, begging for help and Rosa had shoved a five at her, blinking as the woman hacked and coughed on her hand as she took the money. Rosa quickly applied the hand sanitizer and carried on since Will was so insistent she got home.
And so here she was. Alone.
She sat locked in the apartment, watching television and eating. She avoided the news channels because they bummed her out, so a marathon of cable shows it was. Some pot here, some liquor there, it was that boring. Will called every so often, sounding more and more flustered. Finally, he said he was on his way home, not to worry, it was all going to be okay.
Rosa coughed once, twice, sniffing hard and gasping as a sharp prickling went up her nose suddenly. She blinked rapidly, feeling her eyes tear up and why the fuck would she have allergies in the winter? She coughed again, tasting a copper on a tongue and blinking as red filled her vision, catching with a gasp the red drops that fell on her fingers. She breathed hard, trying to stop the prickling feeling, it was starting to hurt.
Will came home about two hours after his last call, talking about how horrible everything was, there were physical attacks happening now. He was so happy to see Rosa, and quickly pulled her to him in a tight hug of someone who was truly and utterly grateful to be home and safe.
She hugged him tight, stifling her breathing. He had thought the redness of her eyes was because she had been crying, the redness of her lips from the cherry bowl on the arm of the couch.
Rosa inhaled deeply, her ears ringing as he continued to murmur words of comfort in her ear. She was so, so hungry. It was making her angry. Her fingers curled into his shoulders, holding him tight against her. Then, she bared her teeth.