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Thursday, September 6, 2012

In Praise of Messy Lives

Katie Roiphe's In Praise of Messy Lives came across my bookshelf in an unusual kind of way; I was scouring a list of forthcoming books and I was hoping this book would make it OK for me to have a messy house.  Nope--that's not what this was about at all

You can read about Katie Roiphe here, and you should--she has an interesting biography.  In her latest, Roiphe explores people with messy lives (hence the title) and she in her essays she tells us about different ways people live that makes their lives "messy"--not as perfect as others want theirs to be.  Roiphe lays out her choice to have her second child as a single mother and all of the flack that came with that choice from outside of herself.  She talks about her "Twitter feud" with Ayelet Waldman (although thinly disguised as "Mrs. C") that Roiphe didn't even know she was having but the rest of the world did.  She writes an essay on Maureen Dowd, and another on our fascination with the world of Mad Men.  She is honest about her feelings toward Gawker; she writes about parenting and about the horror that is Fifty Shades of Grey.

There were two lines in her book that really spoke to me; the first was about the aforementioned book.  If you know me slightly then you know my complete abhorrence to the book, so when I read in Roiphe's essay that if she were a religious conservative her biggest concern would be that intelligent and thoughtful women would put up with writing as horrible as that in the Fifty Shades phenomenon.  (I am paraphrasing here since I have a galley of the book.)  I laughed out loud and then got a little sad, because I have been saying the same thing for months.

The second thought came from her essay on Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign.  Roiphe poses the idea to her readers that I found myself saying of my ex-boyfriend many years ago: We like the idea of strong women but not the reality of them.  (Again, I paraphrase.)  It stung like a knife when she said it simply because she is the first in my life to vocalize what I have been feeling for some time.

This book was thoughtful and interesting, and I am thrilled that I had the chance to read it.  I get that sometimes Roiphe can come off as extreme but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this book.  It was raw and honest, and if that bothers you then you might just want to read it anyway just for fun.

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