August 11, 2008

The Astonishing True Review of I'm Sorry You Feel That Way


Let's get down to brass tax...Diana Joseph's I'm Sorry You Feel That Way is a damn fine book.

Excuse my lack of eloquence in my praise, I'm no Richard Ford, but this book has the grit, charm, humor and heart you want from any book. And it's those qualities, particularly the blue-collar aspects, that set this apart from other essay collections.

The essay collections, I've read always seemed outside the realm of my world. As good a writer as David Sedaris is, it's impossible for me to identify with him over his problems of living in a cottage in France, or travelling to Japan to quit smoking. And because he's the vanguard of essayists, it gives the whole essay genre of writing an air of privlege, or a kind of cultural superiority. I'm Sorry You Feel That Way is rooted in a much more real, Roseanne Barr, middle-class America world. And I'm thankful for it. This grit contributes to that felt trueness that lurks in all of these essays, like the best Bruce Springsteen songs, that I'm sure Diana knows the lyrics to.

These essays on the men of Diana Joseph, from her trench-footed son, to the lumberjack ex-husband, to her obscene brother, to God on high, all are so honest and heartfelt, you just want to give Diana a hug afterwards and say, "I know exactly what you mean." But, I don't have brothers, or an ex-husband, or a teenage son, or much of a sexual history. This speaks to the authority, beauty and power of these essays.

Essentially, this crosses boundaries of typical "audience" issues. If you think of a book like Sloane Crosley's I Thought There'd Be Cake. There you have cutesy stories aimed at urbane women with an extra 12 dollars in their pocket, and that book never delivers above that to anything of any actual depth or meaning. I'm Sorry You Feel That Way goes so far beyond surface level concerns of the modern, educated woman that anyone from the woman-hatingest Philip Roth character to the stereotypical Oprah zealot, will feel the emotional resonance at work here.

The only knock I can think of against this collection is Diana Joseph's list-like style, and penchant for whole names, adds an interesting rhythm at times, but other times it feels a bit forced, and I wondered at its function. Kind of like a hood ornament on an expensive car. Yeah, it looks nice, but the car is a Mercedes already, so is it really necessary? But that also speaks to the strength of the essays...I mean, after all, if you're only complaining about the hood ornament, then you got yourself one fine machine.

In short, when I'm Sorry You Feel That Way comes out next March, go out there and buy it.

viva el mustache


Diana said...

You're nice! Thank you!

Emily said...

I liked it for the same reasons as Bryan and much more. Being a daughter and a sister (and a worry wort, thanks Diana) I relate very well to the dad and brother stories. Also, if we ever have a son and he shows the least bit of interest in music he'll get an overabundance of support from me.

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryan said...

Nice and honest.

Big Perm said...

Wow! Beautiful review, Mr. Bwyan:)