Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.

I didn’t write much down in anticipation of this blog post when I was reading Rob Delaney’s memoir, Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it, or didn’t find anything relevant or memorable to note. Quite the opposite, actually. Everything Delaney shares is just that, memorable and relevant. It’s also highly contextual, so sharing it here in little tidbits would sort of detract from the value and humor and beauty of his writing.

Instead, I’ll just wax poetic about Delaney for a moment, and maybe include some of the tidbits I did write down. He’s such a special type of comedian and writer, the rare one who can do great things with pen and paper and even greater ones with a microphone and a willing audience. He’s got this Hot Dad vibe about him, which he’s completely aware of and plays up, but his comedy is so much more complex and intelligent and fucked up than you could ever imagine or expect. He’s gained perspective since being an alcoholic (p. 35: “I figured it was better for her sanity to believe that her son was a drunk klutz than an actively suicidal daredevil with the stunt proficiency of a trash bag filled with blueberry yogurt”) and nearly killing himself (p. 127: “Dementia would certainly ride well on the thought grooves established by depression”), and now since being married with a bevy of what I presume will be very hairy male children (p. 175: “The way I see it, my new primary function on this earth is simply to die before my son”). His trains of thought veer in directions you’ve never considered before. To say he is honest would be horribly insulting, because his level of honesty and confidence and vulnerability haven’t really been reached by other comedians. He’s at once eloquent and nonsensical, perverse and sensitive, brilliant and silly.

I first saw him at Cobb’s in San Francisco, and most recently at the Bell House in Brooklyn. Both times he utterly delighted and surprised me, and reading his book is like getting to experience that all over again, at your own pace. He’s a furiously hard worker, and I can’t imagine anyone consuming his comedy or writing and not being entertained or enlightened.

Delaney 2016! Just kidding, #ImWithHer. (He is too.)

Runaway

I forget how or why I decided I needed to read some Alice Munro, but I remember thinking she seemed like the kind of person I might take a chance on identifying with. Runaway is a very nice, surprising collection of essays, with individual pieces that I found moving and relatable, but on the whole, I’m not sure Munro is for me.

Munro has a way of building a beautiful world, dropping in incredibly sympathetic characters and then saturating that world with those characters’ crunchiest, least appealing traits. I’m with her when she introduces the characters, and even when she lets us get to know them a bit, but then she has this tendency to layer in details of the emotionally-unimportant or visually-repulsive variety.

I’ll first share a few of those pleasant, world-building snippets. Here are a couple simple, specific descriptions of the houses in a small town: “… with a yard full of firewood, lumber and tires, cars and parts of cars, broken or usable bikes, toys, all the things that have to sit outside when people are lacking garages or basements” and “… most of the houses are like those in the woods, each one in its own wide cluttered yard, as if they have been built within sight of each other only accidentally” (p. 50). See, that’s nice. This one is, too, even if it sounds a touch outdated: “That was what a girl should be, to be fallen in love with” (p. 164).

But Munro can go dark, too. At one point she describes rape as “being broken into,” which is at once beautiful and horrifying. And this passage on adultery, from p. 174, sneaks up on you: “And she thought it must be a relief to Maury to be driving down the highway by himself, rearranging his impressions of his Grace so that he could stay wholeheartedly in love with her.”

Now, onto the characters. Munro favors solitary women, to whom I’m generally able to relate, by bringing us into their vulnerability. “Tricks,” for example, in part details a woman’s attempt to spend the evening alone, treating herself to dinner and such. And “Trespasses” really nails how cliques inflict pain with exclusivity. Munro is also not afraid to extend her characters’ stories as long as necessary. “Juliet” is the focus of three of the short stories in Runaway, and “Soon” provides the immediate sequel to “Chance” that I didn’t even know I wanted. “Silence,” which wraps up the trilogy, is perhaps the most heartbreaking, since it deals with Juliet’s estrangement from her daughter. By the end of it, you feel completely connected to this fictional person’s life, and you gain a skeletal but profound appreciation for that part of motherhood that no one really talks about — communication.

So, finally, the annoying stuff. Munro leans on a comma-heavy stream-of-consciousness crutch, which I found difficult to read. And her blatant worship of the Canadian version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is rampant. Those two grievances can be summed up in one passage, actually: “Juliet knew that, to many people, she might seem to be odd and solitary — and so, in a way, she was” (p. 56). Here’s another one that made my skin crawl: “As she was herself by now, and Penelope, on the steps, even more so” (p. 98). To me, these types of ugly sentences completely negate the elegant ones she constructed elsewhere in the book. They’re like rough drafts inserted into the final version, and they took me completely out of the scene and story and into Munro’s possibly-neurotic brain. It’s enough having the stories themselves center around the aforementioned MPDG — but to have the narrator channeling it, too? I’m against it. I don’t think touchy-feely-type phraseology does any favors for the characters’ likability. It doesn’t add credible flaws to the characters; instead, it discredits Munro’s narrative voice. She couldn’t resist adding in-text footnotes that were better left unsaid, and now the stories are slathered with this mumbling, emotional excess.

Munro overshares without the commas, too. On p. 319, she attempts to summarize an entire gender, but it ends up falling incredibly flat within the context of the story: “Plenty of men never had a word to say about their lives, beyond when and where. But there were others, more up-to-date, who gave these casual-sounding yet practiced speeches in which it was said that life was indeed a bumpy road, but misfortunes had pointed the way to better things, lessons were learned, and without a doubt joy came in the morning.” This passage is clearly based on one person who existed in Munro’s life, and it would be much more effective as the character’s memory, rather than a sweeping generalization about men. I think it further discredits her voice; while she’s clearly a champion of women, I had a hard time believing this negative, out-of-nowhere stance about men. She seems much smarter than that.

My last complaint is about a paragraph on p. 61 that details what happens in the bathroom stall when a woman is on her period. I’m all for erasing the stigma around menstruation, because it happens to exactly 50% of the population. But Munro combined words in that graf that didn’t need to be combined. I considered bringing you all down with me and writing a couple of those word combinations here, but I’ll spare you, so long as you promise not to think periods are gross, because they’re not. (They are, but only those of us with XX chromosomes can say that.) I wish she would have spared me.

I’m open to reading more Munro, but I’ll need a pretty good argument for it first. For now, though, I’ll respect her female-driven fiction from afar — far south of the Canadian border.

The Fortress of Solitude

For the record, I still like Motherless Brooklyn better. There’s something decidedly less self-aware about it. Fortress is painfully, blatantly self-aware — and this matches the main character, Dylan Ebdus, always over-analyzing his actions. Motherless‘ main character had Tourette’s, so he had zero self-awareness. Yet it all makes sense in the end, and it speaks to Jonathan Lethem’s incredible talent.

Fortress of Solitude took awhile to grow on me, but it eventually did. It really was the self-awareness that built a barrier. And the pretentiousness. The number of times that the word “ailanthus” was mentioned — and I still refuse to look the word up, though I know it’s a kind of tree/plant/flower — made me want to hurl, and the pride with which White Guy fetishized Black Brooklyn was nauseating. But I’m also approaching this book from a 2016 perspective, where WGiBB is done, cooked, over, annoying automatically. Back in the 70s, when this book was taking place, gentrification wasn’t even simmering yet, and there wasn’t any telegraphing when it’d boil over. It was new and actually fresh. The eyerolls I’m applying to it are nuanced and layered, unfair and uninformed.

Even though I didn’t grow up remotely close to Brooklyn, I still feel a bond with Dylan. He experienced an intense kind of reverse-racial bullying, which I am thankful I didn’t experience, but I was bullied, too. So many of us were that it’s impossible not to connect to a retelling of it, no matter the context, especially when it’s done well. See, for me, it wasn’t about the physical aspect. Though girls can be physical with their bullying, it’s not as common. It’s about the psychological, about making the bullee feel consumed by the buller, and that’s exactly what Lethem does with respect to Dylan and his oppressors. In addition to being a body to beat up, Dylan is fodder for their fucked-up brains, and yet part of him enjoys it, so he doesn’t exactly retaliate like he should. He craves their attention, and that’s the way they want it.

Lethem also has this wonderfully casual way of mentioning milestone moments, both positive and negative ones. You’re embroiled in the details of a scene, and all of a sudden you realize Dylan’s mother is gone, or Dylan’s become best friends with Mingus Rude, or Dylan’s just had his first real sexual encounter, or the years have just passed swiftly and smoothly. It’s all very matter-of-fact and organic, but the origin of it all is hazy, and that’s okay. There’s always so much focus in fiction on Milestone Moments, when in reality, they happen and that’s it and we sort of forget how they happened. They blend in with everything else.

We really feel like we grew up with Dylan the whole way — the first half of the book plugs through his childhood in third-person perspective, which is akin to how any kid with feelings feels at that time, outside looking in, self-aware but not world-aware. And the second half is in first-person, self-aware as much as humanly possible, infinitely reflective on every little thing, as is the adult way. Dylan is obviously Lethem channeling himself and his childhood experiences, as it’s hard to believe Dylan is a real kid sometimes. But his life is easy to relate to, in spite of its specificity and undeniable hipness. His best friend is an enigma, and yet Dylan is one too, trying to uncover his own identity in the shadow of someone else’s whom he’ll always covet. The supernatural element of the book — the magic ring — feels entirely, completely sensible, even in the context of this very stark, real world. Because there’s a supernatural element to every kid’s being.

Lethem also has a way of characterizing stereotypes one encounters in one’s life in ways that they haven’t been characterized before. His cynicism cuts deeply, uniquely. For Dylan, Arthur Lomb is that friend: “Positioning, positioning, Arthur Lomb was forever positioning himself, making his views known, aligning on some index no one would ever consult” (p. 126). Moira is that girl: “Moira and I were a couple for two weeks from that night — an eternity at Camden, where rehearsals of adulthood were rendered miniature by a compression of time and space” (p. 387). Home is gentrifying before his eyes: “Brooklyn’s bepissed your blonde destiny” (p. 267). Popular culture is dulling before his eyes: “I flashed on a vision of a world dotted with conferences, convocations, and “Cons” of all types, each an engine for converting feelings of inferiority and self-loathing into their opposites” (p. 345), and “Football was an arrangement of failures, a proving how unlikely most things were” (p. 75), and “My black jeans were like a smudge of ash or a daub of vomit in this cream-and-peach world” (p. 322). Lethem and Dylan are critical, sharp observers, ready to slay.

[Even descriptions of daily minutae have this depleted, beautiful poetry to them: “If the Etch A Sketch and the Spirograph had really worked they would probably be machines, not toys, they would be part of the way the adult universe operated and be mounted onto the instrument panels of cars or worn on the belts of policemen,” (p. 9) and “The squirrel moved as an oscillating sequence of humps, tail and spine bunching in counterpoint” (p. 17), and “The bicycle … would be downstairs again, leaning in the hallway like a stuffed animal, a blind chrome elk loaded with his parents’ expectation and Dylan’s dread” (p. 43).]

Mingus Rude, though, inspired completely different ways of thinking in both of them: “Leave it to Mingus Rude to recuperate their differences for his own purposes, for Robin Hooditry in art’s cause” (p. 145). Around Mingus, Dylan wasn’t cynical, at least not initially. He shook up something intangible in Dylan’s demeanor, something that not everyone gets to experience, it seems. Mingus’ shitty situation bred a wisdom that then sloughed off on Dylan, who shared them with us:”You could grow up in the city where history was made and still miss it all” and “The key to mostly anything is pretending your first time isn’t” (p. 259″, and “Each institution carries previous incarnations, like sluggish rivers with another century’s silt at their bottoms” (p. 465).

But perhaps my favorite line in the book comes from the beginning, when Lethem’s adult wisdom still overpowers Dylan’s kid ignorance. This line is so evocative to me, so exemplary of youth and innocence: “They gathered wide-eyed as though warming at a campfire of their own awe” (p. 47). It captures the unintentional egotism of youth, too, the idea that nothing’s more important than what’s happening right now, and that’s a takeaway from the book, too. No matter how insignificant things may be, they’re significant in their own context, in their own little world, in their fortress of solitude.

The Jungle

There is one kind of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything he desires is outside; and there is another kind where the things are behind the bars, and the man is outside.

The Jungle is one of those intimidating books that I felt I had to read — I was curious about the cultural implications, the hallowed ranking it has among other literary works, and the supposedly shocking subject matter. The copy sat in my bookshelf for years before I finally worked up the nerve to break up the fiction/comedy jag I’d been on and get fucking real with it.

This book is fucking real, but not exactly in the way I’d imagined. Yes, the descriptions of the meat plants in Chicago are brutal and nauseating, but those passages didn’t affect me nearly as much as those that detail the lives of the immigrant workers themselves. This line, specifically, is what pained me the most: “A man might work full fifty minutes, but if there was no work to fill out the hour, there was no pay for him” (p. 91). It encompasses everything you need to know about the futile existence of the working class at that time. Jurgis Rudkus, our battered protagonist, isn’t even really a guy to root for. Over the course of the book, he makes so many horrible, hot-headed decisions that lead him down incredibly obvious, destructive paths. And yet his tale is so deeply intriguing, so enlightening, and so curiously written that he’s impossible not to follow down those paths.

Upton Sinclair’s writing style is very dense, written from this very specific, omnipresent, lightly coddling point of view. He somehow captures the naivete of the Rudkus family without ever making them seem stupid, yet he doesn’t excuse any of their actions, either. Here’s an example, in which the wonder of the newspaper strikes the family for the first time: “There was battle and murder and sudden death — it was marvelous how they ever heard about so many entertaining and thrilling happenings; the stories must all be true, for surely no man could have made such things up, and besides, there were pictures of them all, as real as life” (p. 207). And here’s one of how advertising affected them: “In innumerable ways such as this, the traveler found that somebody had been busied to make smooth his paths through the world, and to let him know what had been done for him” (p. 58). It’s sad, really, that the printed word was taken so literally by all of these people, that they bought so easily into the housing scams, the useless products, the sensationalist headlines, but why shouldn’t they have? Coming from Eastern Europe, they viewed America as the territorial embodiment of a saviour, and they trusted it wholly.

I actually expected myself to be bored with the tone of the book, but it only got more exciting as I kept reading. Though Sinclair’s style was mostly comprised of that straightforward, couple-extra-words-there style, he’d occasionally unleash a beautiful flourish. Here’s a favorite passage, highlighting the Rudkus family’s instinct for survival and complete, utter tolerance for suffering: “Perhaps he ought to have meditated upon the hunger of the children, and upon his own baseness; but he thought only of Ona, he gave himself up again to the luxury of grief” (p. 191). The guilt Jurgis felt for mourning his own wife — the “luxury of grief” — is something that doesn’t really exist in the U.S. We wallow in grief here, even now. Probably more now than ever. We let it consume us. We have a grieving process. Jurgis felt he was practically debasing himself, thinking about his late wife.

As I mentioned before, Jurgis is kind of an idiot, bumbling around in a world of staggering dumb luck, but he changes his mind so often and heeds so many different opinions that you kind of have to respect the guy for being open (despite his generally conservative demeanor). At one point in the book, after his wife dies, he ditches the rest of the incredibly hard-working, crafty family to become a wanderer and survive at a new pace. As he acclimated to the lifestyle, he noticed that his health and moods would come in waves, and he struggled to redefine his comfort level. “This happened to him very time, for Jurgis was still a creature of impulse, and his pleasures had not yet become business” (p. 218). I love the way that’s phrased; I think it’s difficult for most people to realize that their instincts for fun or pleasure might actually be beneficial.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that the book concludes with a proud, demonstrative shilling for Socialism. You can see it coming from miles (pages?) away. Aside from recounting lolling, drawn-out speeches by various leaders, Sinclair does a convincing job of showing how well the movement met the needs of an admittedly gullible person like Jurgis. Early on in his discovery of Socialism, Jurgis notes the fervor of its followers: “There was a look of excitement upon her face, of tense effort, as of one struggling mightily, or witnessing a struggle” (p. 296). He was pulled in by this zealous, unabashed display, by the seeming kindness of the group, by the common goal of freedom they all seemed to share. “That was the nearest approach to independence a man could make ‘under capitalism,’ he explained; he would never marry, for no sane man would allow himself to fall in love until after the revolution” (p. 327).

Socialism made him realize that he’d been doing it — life — wrong this whole time, but that he had to do it wrong in order to know how to do it right. The struggle was an important part of the movement, but Socialism removed the burden of the struggle from the individual and placed it on the whole — the ultimate comfort, the ultimate saviour. “They were trying to save their souls–and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?” (p. 226). Given the circumstances, it works out pretty well.

Read it. Thank your lucky stars that you know where your meat comes from, that there’s universal healthcare, and that Chicago’s pretty wonderful now.

Changing My Mind

I think I love Zadie Smith, even if I don’t completely understand her.

A friend of mine lent me Changing My Mind, perhaps sensing I’d appreciate it, and she was correct. Knowing Smith is out there — and wishing I’d known sooner — is an extremely comforting thought. She goes about the world with the eyes and mind that, ideally, I covet. I have to settle with what I’ve got, but I can attempt to glean inspiration from what she’s got in the meantime. “Other people’s words are so important. And then without warning they stop being important, along with all those words of yours that their words prompted you to write” (p. 102). See, she gets me. Right?

This book is a collection of “occasional essays,” as she puts it. It’s stuff she already wrote and re-assembled under the admittedly transparent oh-shit-book-deal theme laid out in the title. And yet it’s a perfect theme, because it owns up to the fact that humans aren’t actually consistent about their opinions (shout out to R.W. Emerson), and observing one’s work grow and change over time is a great way of demonstrating that fact. People need to uphold this fact — nay, tenet — and shout it from the rooftops occasionally. Props to Smith for doing just that — the title is a literary neon sign.

So, the lack of understanding I mentioned before. Since this is variety of essays on very disparate topics, a few of them were bound to go over my head. This isn’t a bad thing, but I am in the unfortunate habit of reading all the exaggerated critic quotes at the start of best-sellers, and there were so many pull-quotes that claimed how clear and easygoing her writing was, how she could make the most obscure topic jump right off the page and into your brain. I found this to be only partially true. “Rereading Barthes and Nabokov” was a pretty tough text, because I know absolutely nothing about either author, and “Notes on Visconti’s Bellissima” made me feel downright stupid. I actually started to question the point of criticism — and of my own blog — because if a critic can’t make the work inclusive and decipherable, who can?

Yet when she wrote about Zora Neal Hurston, she drew me right in, so I guess I have to forgive her. (Besides, I’m sure there are plenty of readers who found the following excerpts extremely boring. To them, I say, “I get it” and “Go fuck yourself.”) “I had to admit that mythic language is startling when it’s good,” Smith says on p. 5 in “Their Eyes Were Watching God: What Does Soulful Mean?”. Her essay “E.M. Forster, Middle Manager” made me change my own mind halfway about something I thought was completely uninteresting when I started reading it. And in “Middlemarch and Everybody,” she gives a description of reading George Eliot that made me consider pausing her essay and picking up Eliot’s work instead. I didn’t, but I plan to. From p. 30: “… like the two hands of a piece for the piano, a contrapuntal structure is set in motion, in which many melodic lines make equal claim on our attention. The result is that famous Eliot effect, the narrative equivalent of surround sound.” Smith also let Eliot’s writing speak for itself on p. 32, which I found incredibly accurate and inspiring: “The first impulse of a young and ingenuous mind is to withhold the slightest sanction from that contains even a mixture of supposed error. When the soul is just liberated from the wretched giant’s bed of dogmas on which it has been racked and stretched ever since it began to think there is a feeling of exultation and strong hope.”

Her film criticism is pretty spot-on, too — an impressive feat for someone who doesn’t consider herself a film critic. Skewering actor Jason Schwartzman in Shopgirl, Smith notes, “He cannot say a line without mentally enclosing it in quotation marks” (p. 183). And in describing Felicity Huffman’s performance in Transamerica, Smith says she “has exactly the careful, over stylized physical movements used by those who aspire to the feminine and feel they do not naturally possess it” (p. 209), an interesting observation especially considering Huffman herself has been very public about her own insecurities with her appearance. As for the movie itself, Smith sums it up well: “To watch this film go through its paces is a reminder that all cultures, no matter how alternative, petrify into cliche in the end” (p. 208).

She covers broader cinematic topics as well. “Hepburn and Garbo” reveres both women equally, but I was particularly struck by the portion on Hepburn. Smith’s observations about how Hepburn carried herself and moved through Hollywood with an impenetrable, undeniable masculine femininity are so unique and flattering that I wish the subject could be around to read them herself. “Ten Notes on Oscar Weekend” is pretty amusing, too — Smith is unapologetic about her very removed, very British perspective, and I found myself identifying with its apathy very strongly.

Actually, I identified with her British perspective basically any time she mentioned it. On the movie Brief Encounter: “It’s not that the English don’t want true love or self-knowledge. Rather, unlike our European cousins, we will not easily give up the real for the dream” (p. 193). Amen! And comedian Russell Kane, who had “a typically British ressentiment for those very people his sensibilities have moved him toward,” she elaborated, “You start out wanting people to laugh in exactly the places you mean them to laugh, then they always laugh where you want them to laugh — then you start to hate them for it” (p. 247).

Her most touching piece, undoubtedly, was “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace,” someone whom she clearly loved and understood better than most people — which, sadly, still isn’t much. “Wallace saw his own gifts — not as a natural resource to be exploited but as a suspicious facility to be interrogated,” she notes on p. 256. What an ethereal awareness he had, then, and what accomplishments he amassed despite of it. She writes the whole essay in his lengthily-claused, heavily-footnoted, severly-self-conscious style, a true tribute if ever there was one. And she peppers it with his sorts of rhetorical questions: “What is confession worth if what we want from it is not absolution but admiration for having confessed?” (p. 271). That kind of writing should make us all the more thankful that she’s around to ask them, even if he isn’t anymore.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years

Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett are friends, you guys. Really good friends.

Probably everyone over 45 knows this, but I learned it upon reading Andrews’ memoir, and now I’d like to be their third wheel, thank you very much. (J + C, please invite me over! Thanks in advance.)

It’s pretty common knowledge that I love Julie Andrews unconditionally, and it’ll probably come up in conversation if we talk about our top 5 movies. The Sound of Music is my favorite, Christopher Plummer as Capt. Von Trapp is my ideal man, and Maria is the woman I want to be. (Except I don’t want to be a nun or abandon nunnery for a life with seven children.) I also loved her in Mary Poppins, and upon seeing those two movies, decided that she could have chemistry with a rock, she’s that charming. But you’d think that my “unconditional love” statement would imply that I’d seen more of her movies or knew more about her. Nope! I’m a fraud.

It was time to reverse that fraudulence with a dip into her early years. I thought I might be a little bored by it, since my interest in her is mostly based on the two movies I’ve seen, but it turns out she’s just as eloquent and effervescent in talking about her childhood as she is playing a character in a movie or appearing on a talk show. Andrews is a delicate, clear writer with keen observation skills (“The newscasters had serious names like Alvar Liddell and Bruce Belfrage, and in their serious, well-cadenced voices they read the news with careful precision and crisp diction,” p. 37) who looks back on her childhood with some fondness and some pain. She’s diplomatic about recalling certain memories, but she doesn’t take too much care not to offend anyone — if someone from her past was an arse, she’ll say so. She’s also honest about her family’s problems, including the alcoholism of her parents. (This tone was an especially nice contrast after reading her aforementioned co-star’s wordy, pretentious memoir a few years ago, linked to above.)

She seems to literally sing through the pain, never letting herself get too down about anything, not really dwelling on having anything to be down about, and having quite a balanced perspective on her own life. Though she had a rather transitive childhood — moving around a lot between parents’ houses, aunts and uncles’ houses, taking trains to London to perform, flying to America to perform — she seemed to be aware of her capabilities and limitations, proud of her talent, and incredibly considerate of her family. The music truly seems to lift her up, and being such a diligent student must have genuinely helped her in her teen years — there are pages of descriptions about specific vocal and breathing exercises and visualizations that her coach taught her, and it’s truly fascinating to read.

Andrews was essentially a solo Von Trapp kid, which may be why she identified so strongly with the role of their eventual stepmother. Early on, her talent became pretty clear, so she became a child star — though she seemed to have a choice in the matter. If there was any intense pressure put upon her, it certainly wasn’t from her parents. Andrews simply acknowledged that her greatest asset was her voice, and found a way to enjoy it immensely. She’s one of the lucky ones, someone who was able to embrace the lifestyle that accompanied her natural skills. This quote, about her profound love for performing live theater, is truly inspiring:

p. 254 // “There is a sudden thrill of connection and an awareness of size — the theater itself, more the height of the great stage housing behind and above me, where history has been absorbed, where darkness contains mystery and light has meaning.”

She’s also a lot cheekier than you might think, but not in the braggy way that Plummer was about his conquests. Andrews was more passive, observing the insanity around her and waiting for just the right time to make her quip. These two quotes made me laugh:

p. 156, describing her experience of performing “Cinderella” onstage // “The ponies were adorable, but had a phenomenal talent for taking a dump onstage whenever I had friends in the audience.”

p. 171, on living with a roommate who brought her boyfriend over a lot // “They would occasionally become amorous, so I would retreat to the bedroom, but I couldn’t help overhearing the mounting sexual exertions taking place on the couch in the next room.”

I think I’d be annoyed at anyone else for writing a book like this — it’s generally pretty upbeat, and so inclusive of homey, random details. But she keeps these bits interesting and anecdotal. She doesn’t take them seriously, instead appreciating them genuinely, and that attitude rubs off on the reader. She’s a reasonably optimistic person — someone we should all strive to be, I suppose.