Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Unspeakable - Meghan Daum


This was a hot book at my library.  The hold list was longer than for most books I request.  I don't remember where I read about it, but it was touted as a no holds barred collection of essays.  I'm not sure it lived up to being outrageous.  I agreed with a lot of what Daum had to say, but maybe that's the point:  she admits to feelings that many of us have and are afraid to voice.

Grieving is one of those feelings.  In the first essay, the author writes about her relationship with her mother and her mother's death.  Many people feel that grieving should take certain forms and adhere to an accepted time table.  Oddly, I'm taking an on-line free course on Hamlet, and part of that discussion is about whether or not Hamlet was crazy, suffering from melancholy, or if he just grieved longer and louder than was the norm in those days.  He was expected to buck up and get on with it, but he didn't.

Her essay about dogs was wonderful.  We were definitely on the same page with that one.  I start to cry every time I read The Rainbow Bridge or hear it referenced.  If you've ever lost a beloved pet, you probably know it.  I think one of the reasons I suffer from sustained depression / melancholy is that in the past eight years, I've held six beloved pets in my arms as I allowed them to leave me and their pain and suffering.

I couldn't relate to her essay about being an honorary, if inactive, member of the LGBT community.  Totally lost me there.  I have no problem with people of any sexual inclination (as long as they don't involve unwilling participants, human or animal), but I also have no desire to be part of any of those communities.  I don't want to be part of almost any communities, even those to which I'm legitimately entitled, and I don't like groups.  But hers is an interesting viewpoint.

We also agree about children, although I never even considered having one.  I think children should be wanted with all one's heart, not just conceived because 'it's time' or one's worried that one will regret not having one, or, horrors of horrors, that a child will save a marriage.  I like kids if they are  smart, communicative, imaginative, and don't jump on the furniture or color on the walls.  They had better not be mean to animals.  I cut animals more slack than I do children.  Animals are allowed to bite or scratch children, but not vice versa.

There's an essay on Joni Mitchell, one of the author's idols, and the dinner that the author had with her.  Not What It Used to Be is about how things have changed over the years.  The author's almost twenty years younger than I am, so I've got more stories than she does.  The Best Possible Experience is about the pressure to marry, to 'settle', and to hold out for the right one.  It's also a defense of unmarried people.  Even though Daum did marry in her mid-thirties, marriage wasn't anywhere near  the top of her 'to do' list.

Daum hates to cook and views food as something to get done.  She has no aptitude for cooking, usually screws up recipes by not using the correct pans or reading the recipe through before starting.  She's perfectly happy with almost anything that someone else cooks.  Her husband seems to be the one who keeps them alive.

Invisible City is about life in Los Angeles, where the author lives.  She rubs elbows with celebrities and has some funny stories about those encounters.  And some sad stories about them and the world they live in.  They are not like us.

I skipped the last essay, which was about her near death experience with a sudden and badly behaved bacterial infection.  Since my husband spent several days in the hospital last fall with sepsis, this one was a little too soon and too close to home.  I had no desire to relive days in the hospital spent waiting and hoping and trying to stay strong.  I don't watch shows about or read books about hospitals or doctors or anything involving sickness.  It's too much like real life.

I think I've given you an idea of the content.  It's varied and most of it's interesting.  Daum writes well and writes honestly.  The Unspeakable was a pleasure to read.


  1. This one doesn't seem to have reached over the pond yet but it sounds interesting. I'm absolutely with you in the avoiding books and films to do with hospitals and illness. If you've been there in reality it just isn't entertainment. I'm not a club sort of person either, what a strange idea to want to be part of a club that you're not really eligible for.

    1. We're on the same page most of the time, Katrina!

  2. I've been hearing about this and would really like to read it. I'd put myself on the library hold list for it but I'm still under a request ban at least until the end of February. And meanwhile, two more books I requested last year are waiting for me to pick up.

    1. I heard about it in several places, which is why I thought I'd like to read it. Also, I hadn't written any essays lately. I hate short stories, but I like essays. They're more like talking to someone.

      All my holds seem to be appearing at the same time, too. I'd been reading mostly my own books, but I'm so easily tempted!