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From the New York Times best-selling author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, a ferocious, sexy, hilarious memoir about going off the rails at midlife and trying to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become. Claire Dederer is a happily married mother of two, ages nine and twelve, when she suddenly finds herself totally despondent and, simultaneous From the New York Times best-selling author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, a ferocious, sexy, hilarious memoir about going off the rails at midlife and trying to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become. Claire Dederer is a happily married mother of two, ages nine and twelve, when she suddenly finds herself totally despondent and, simultaneously, suffering through a kind of erotic reawakening. This exuberant memoir shifts between her present experience as a middle-aged mom in the grip of mysterious new hungers and herself as a teenager–when she last experienced life with such heightened sensitivity and longing. From her hilarious chapter titles (“How to Have Sex with Your Husband of Seventeen Years”) to her subjects–from the boyfriend she dumped at fourteen the moment she learned how to give herself an orgasm, to the girls who ruled her elite private school (“when I left Oberlin I thought I had done with them forever, but it turned out …they also edited all the newspapers and magazines, and wrote all the books”), to raising a teenage daughter herself–Dederer writes with an electrifying blend of wry wit and raw honesty. She exposes herself utterly, and in doing so captures something universal about the experience of being a woman, a daughter, a wife.


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From the New York Times best-selling author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, a ferocious, sexy, hilarious memoir about going off the rails at midlife and trying to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become. Claire Dederer is a happily married mother of two, ages nine and twelve, when she suddenly finds herself totally despondent and, simultaneous From the New York Times best-selling author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, a ferocious, sexy, hilarious memoir about going off the rails at midlife and trying to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become. Claire Dederer is a happily married mother of two, ages nine and twelve, when she suddenly finds herself totally despondent and, simultaneously, suffering through a kind of erotic reawakening. This exuberant memoir shifts between her present experience as a middle-aged mom in the grip of mysterious new hungers and herself as a teenager–when she last experienced life with such heightened sensitivity and longing. From her hilarious chapter titles (“How to Have Sex with Your Husband of Seventeen Years”) to her subjects–from the boyfriend she dumped at fourteen the moment she learned how to give herself an orgasm, to the girls who ruled her elite private school (“when I left Oberlin I thought I had done with them forever, but it turned out …they also edited all the newspapers and magazines, and wrote all the books”), to raising a teenage daughter herself–Dederer writes with an electrifying blend of wry wit and raw honesty. She exposes herself utterly, and in doing so captures something universal about the experience of being a woman, a daughter, a wife.

30 review for Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Lots could be said - interesting/addictive audiobook....but I kept an arm distance!!

  2. 5 out of 5

    juliemcl

    Blech. I kept wanting to stop reading, but already owed the library fine so kept reading to the end - you know, to get my money's worth? I guess this holds your interest inasmuch as reading someone's diary for an hour might be interesting, but it meanders, is imprecise, is exasperating, is immature. The excerpts of her childhood diary only serve to highlight that she hasn't changed much. Oh, the privileged navel-gazing! Why did I pick this up? I have to be extra careful in choosing memoirs, now Blech. I kept wanting to stop reading, but already owed the library fine so kept reading to the end - you know, to get my money's worth? I guess this holds your interest inasmuch as reading someone's diary for an hour might be interesting, but it meanders, is imprecise, is exasperating, is immature. The excerpts of her childhood diary only serve to highlight that she hasn't changed much. Oh, the privileged navel-gazing! Why did I pick this up? I have to be extra careful in choosing memoirs, now I see. No more trying to finish just for finishing's sake.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn Day

    Her raw, clever writing does only a mediocre job of hiding the messy construction of the book. There are stunning moments that beg to be reread, but those are (unfortunately) lost in the sorting through of everything else.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Sandham Mathwin

    Mixed feelings. On the one hand, Claire Dederer is a very good writer; on the other hand, I found this book to be too long and self indulgent. There was a lot of repetition. Basically, she's a very sexual person, she slept around a lot when she was younger and really enjoyed it and now she's a married, middle aged Mom and feels sad that she no longer gets the amount of male attention that she used to. Being sexually desired and desirable is a big part of her identity, however, as a feminist, she Mixed feelings. On the one hand, Claire Dederer is a very good writer; on the other hand, I found this book to be too long and self indulgent. There was a lot of repetition. Basically, she's a very sexual person, she slept around a lot when she was younger and really enjoyed it and now she's a married, middle aged Mom and feels sad that she no longer gets the amount of male attention that she used to. Being sexually desired and desirable is a big part of her identity, however, as a feminist, she feels conflicted about this (and as a middle aged woman she is scared that she is slowly losing this aspect of herself). I got a bit bored with all of it. Plus, there was a lot of over generalizing. For example, she comments that if you aren't a good cook by the time you are middle aged it's a "serious character defect" and "means something bad, something ungenerous, about your personality." Really? This from a person who admits to having all sorts of inappropriate relationships (which she writes about in detail). Whatever-I found her annoying and narcissistic and couldn't help but think about her children reading this book someday. Then again, if everyone with kids avoided writing about potentially embarrassing or highly personal topics then there would be a definite lack of good memoirs. In spite of my frustration, I finished the book because she writes well and there were some aspects that were spot on (for example, her descriptions of the overly permissive 1970's/early 1980's culture and the lack of supervision that a lot of Gen Xers grew up with, her description of her job working at a movie theater when she was a teenager). I found myself wishing at times that she would have taken some of her real life experiences and fictionalized them.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Garcia

    Best book I've read in a while. Couldn't put this baby down. Female sexuality, like all sexuality, is complicated-- thank god we are finally talking about it with this kind of lucidity and candor. Best book I've read in a while. Couldn't put this baby down. Female sexuality, like all sexuality, is complicated-- thank god we are finally talking about it with this kind of lucidity and candor.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Jensen

    A woman going through a ridiculous mid life crisis is fixated on her thirteen year old self. Quoting from the book, "You received a savage e-mail from a mentor and former editor of yours, who told you the book was so unreadable she had to stop midway through." kept ringing in my mind as I read this book but persevered to the end. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. A woman going through a ridiculous mid life crisis is fixated on her thirteen year old self. Quoting from the book, "You received a savage e-mail from a mentor and former editor of yours, who told you the book was so unreadable she had to stop midway through." kept ringing in my mind as I read this book but persevered to the end. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel León

    I really needed this book. It was the exact thing I needed right now. And it's one I'd really like to visit again because it was a salve for my soul. I really needed this book. It was the exact thing I needed right now. And it's one I'd really like to visit again because it was a salve for my soul.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I didn't find this all that different in tone from Dederer's 2010 memoir Poser, a work that she now disparages as a "lady book". Much of this new memoir I found grating and hard to listen to. I was going to give it two stars but then the final chapter or two redeemed it. She's good with putting sentences together, at finding great phrases to describe things, but in both books I got the feeling she wasn't being entirely truthful, and was convincing herself of things because she found a phrasing o I didn't find this all that different in tone from Dederer's 2010 memoir Poser, a work that she now disparages as a "lady book". Much of this new memoir I found grating and hard to listen to. I was going to give it two stars but then the final chapter or two redeemed it. She's good with putting sentences together, at finding great phrases to describe things, but in both books I got the feeling she wasn't being entirely truthful, and was convincing herself of things because she found a phrasing or example that sounded good. And yet, near the end of this memoir Dederer pulls back, pauses, and appears to ask herself - and try to answer truthfully - some questions that aren't obscured by hip phases or wordy rhetoric. She interrogates the frame of the very book she has written, in which she has basically attributed her youthful promiscuity and present-day yearnings for extramarital relationships to a molestation (rape) at age 13 by an adult friend of the family. She asks whether this is really the reason for her complicated character, and whether it really scarred her, and if she just would have had this sexual personality even if that hadn't happened. Now, I actually wouldn't have gone that far as a reader and doubted her on THAT - if a woman says they have been sexually abused then one believes them; but she brought up the question herself. But: while still pondering this conclusion to Love and TroubleI listened to Roxane Gay's new memoir. What a difference. There is absolutely no doubt in the reader's mind (yes I'll speak for all decent people who read Gay's book) that the terrible incident of Roxane's rape at age 12 was the most devastating moment of her life and affects her to this day. With Dederer one begins to wonder - because even she isn't sure. Since I never entirely feel Dederer is being truthful I could just override her self-questioning and assume: of course it changed her. But actually the book seemed to improve or change tone after she questions that premise of her self-identity. It felt more honest for a few pages. Until she starts over trying to explain her sexuality: What? - you've assumed she's been doing this all along, but maybe she's been lying? So even this ends up ambiguous in a Dederer memoir. For as soon as I rejoiced in the sudden feeling of revelation I immediately began to question why, when describing her desires and her proclivities that she chooses to use the word "victim" (I want to be a victim/ be victimized?). Victim? Isn't she talking about dominance/submission? It confused me and I realized I didn't quite know what she was saying again, or she settled on this word ("victim") and then ran with it, riffing on it, writing very well on the sentence level but leaving me with questions.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amy Lemley

    I specialize in child abuse and neglect, and based on that, I would say the author is still suffering quite actively from it effects as an adult. As a child, she seems largely ignored and certainly unprotected. I found it sad that she spun this maltreatment into some kind of wacky, sexualized personality instead of the ill effects of what it was: blatant neglect. Yes, it was the 70s and 80s, but parents still protected their children. As I was reading the book, more than once I had the impulse t I specialize in child abuse and neglect, and based on that, I would say the author is still suffering quite actively from it effects as an adult. As a child, she seems largely ignored and certainly unprotected. I found it sad that she spun this maltreatment into some kind of wacky, sexualized personality instead of the ill effects of what it was: blatant neglect. Yes, it was the 70s and 80s, but parents still protected their children. As I was reading the book, more than once I had the impulse to write the author and apologize in behalf of her mom and dad. I'll say it: The level of hypersexualization of the author is not healthy or normal, whether you are young, old, man or woman. Instead of spending these pages rationalizing why it is, I wish the author would be the parent to herself she never had and use the book to thoughtfully explore her experience. No such luck.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I loved this memoir. So fun, sexy, wise, open, and fierce. I think I related to so much of it because Dederer and I were both raised in Washington state and are only two months apart in age. If I were a woman, this may have been MY memoir. I wrote a longer review with personal thoughts on this book and it will appear in the next issue of Post Road journal.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bree Hill

    I checked the audio version of this out from the library. I'm a complete sucker for a good memoir and seen this one floating around but also noticed how mehhh the reviews were. Still, eventually I gave in and gave it a go. We all knew that girl. Growing up we all knew that girl in school who you saw her name written on a park bench or in the bathroom with her number written under it stating "call for a good time." Sometimes you didn't find out until years later about this girl, but she was there. I checked the audio version of this out from the library. I'm a complete sucker for a good memoir and seen this one floating around but also noticed how mehhh the reviews were. Still, eventually I gave in and gave it a go. We all knew that girl. Growing up we all knew that girl in school who you saw her name written on a park bench or in the bathroom with her number written under it stating "call for a good time." Sometimes you didn't find out until years later about this girl, but she was there. This memoir is from one of those girls. Now she is a middle age mom and having this middle age erotic reawakening and sharing her story by flip flopping between past and present trying to figure out what the hell is happening and where the issues lie. This book isn't for everyone. The author is very up front and raw about things she has done. Her language isn't for everyone. I'm someone who cusses(id love to stop, I hate that I do it) and there were times I was even uncomfortable. But I can respect someone who just puts their business out there in hopes that someone will read it and take away something from it. There were maybe 3 passages in this book that moved me..but they were completely overshadowed by everything else this book was. You do what you want with Your body and if you like what you do, you own up to it. And the author does. But in this day and age that can be very dangerous. She did the things she did before instagram and Snapchat and young women have a lot more to worry about now. I can see this book getting into the wrong hands and being completely misinterpreted as I can go do whoever I want because it's my body and I have no feelings about it and that's my business! But then be crushed when it leaks all over the internet and school--then not realizing the author is an over 40 mother of 2 now and when she did what she did the world was a little different. At some point the book just became boring. There were pages at the end where I was like THIS IS WHAT IVE BEEN WAITING FOR..but then it was almost like a relapse and I'd be thinking WHY DID WE JUST BACKTRACK!? If you read for yourself don't say I sent you.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lorri Steinbacher

    While Dederer's experiences are unique to her, there is a universality to her expression of those experiences that will ring true to a lot of women: * Do you want to be safe or be free? Can you be both? * The transition from being a girl, being blissfully unaware of your body beyond its utility, to the moment you realize that your body is something to be looked upon and it affects the way you move in it, feel about it. * Simultaneously wanting the male gaze, courting it even, and hating it at the s While Dederer's experiences are unique to her, there is a universality to her expression of those experiences that will ring true to a lot of women: * Do you want to be safe or be free? Can you be both? * The transition from being a girl, being blissfully unaware of your body beyond its utility, to the moment you realize that your body is something to be looked upon and it affects the way you move in it, feel about it. * Simultaneously wanting the male gaze, courting it even, and hating it at the same time. * Reconciling your feminism, deeply felt, truly believed, with your desire to feel dominated, small, led. * At midlife, still feeling yourself to be that 16 year old ingenue, your body betraying you once again simply by aging. * Creating a marriage as you go along, loving your husband desperately, and resenting him a little bit too. I could go in and on, but suffice it to say I recognized parts of myself in Dederer's story and am thankful to hear it vocalized.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Free copy for honest review. "A ferocious, sexy, hilarious memoir about going off the rails at midlife and trying to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become." - Nothing could be farther from the truth. I found this book to be boring and I didn't find it the least bit funny. As far as I was concerned it was all about a middle aged women bitching and moaning about her life. I won't be recommending it to friends. Free copy for honest review. "A ferocious, sexy, hilarious memoir about going off the rails at midlife and trying to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become." - Nothing could be farther from the truth. I found this book to be boring and I didn't find it the least bit funny. As far as I was concerned it was all about a middle aged women bitching and moaning about her life. I won't be recommending it to friends.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robin Donnelly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I bought this book because it was recommended by Elizabeth Gilbert on FB. The synopsis captured my interest immediately because I'm the same age, am going through menopause, am a long-time wife and an aspiring memoirist. I should have known that if Elizabeth Gilbert was recommending it, I would also need a dictionary to read along. I get that this author is an essayist, book critic, Oberlin educated reporter and has been reading since she was born, but my god, bring it down a few notches for tho I bought this book because it was recommended by Elizabeth Gilbert on FB. The synopsis captured my interest immediately because I'm the same age, am going through menopause, am a long-time wife and an aspiring memoirist. I should have known that if Elizabeth Gilbert was recommending it, I would also need a dictionary to read along. I get that this author is an essayist, book critic, Oberlin educated reporter and has been reading since she was born, but my god, bring it down a few notches for those of us who at that age were just trying to survive childhood, not thrive in it. At the start of the book I was nodding my head in agreement, "Yes, yes, I can relate!" But, somewhere past Chapter 6, I found myself thinking "WTF?" - To say that this memoir is lost on me is an understatement. This woman is not having the type of "midlife awakening" I'm having. Not in the least. Her fascination with rape and Roman Polanski's life and Roman Polanski raping her daughter is creepy and quite frankly, by the end of the book I was sick of hearing it, but just as I thought she was done with that, she then says how her friend Vic "always laughs about her jokes about rape." WTF? Are you kidding me? She's obsessed with rape! The fact this woman has two kids that will someday read this further creeps me out and actually makes me feel embarrassed for her. I think she should had listened to her editor and left some (most) of these vignettes out. I tried to imagine my husband reading this if it was mine and honestly think her husband must not read her books? Mine would be like, "I'm making you a counseling appt. and we're getting marriage counseling." I usually can't stick with writers like this, who insist on using words that no one ever uses in real conversation but only when writing a book trying to impress you with all they know. BUT, it was out of morbid curiosity I read the whole book in one sitting. It's good in parts. Claire Dederer's ability to describe mundane things and places is exquisite but lost in the droning on about chapters that mean nothing to anyone but those who went to her school, and half chapters dedicated to describing characters in books/movies... In short, it's thee weirdest thing I have ever read. Some of it fits and some of it veers off into left field, at least it did for me. The synopsis is not even close to describing what you will read here. These are repressed memories that I think the author would deal best with in counseling and is more like a midlife breakdown. The only reckoning this gal is doing is trying to figure out why she's a bi-sexual sex addict. And she will have you believe it all comes down to one guy named Jack Wolf who climbed into a sleeping bag with her and his hard penis rubbed her leg! How stupid does she think we are? Very, is the answer. I for one, may not have her education, vocabulary or have read the books she's read, but I do read a lot of memoir and I know when someone is pulling my leg to sell a book. This woman has trauma that can only come from being raped, probably several times throughout her life and for all the descriptive prose she provides about the rape of Samantha Gailey, she conveniently leaves all that out when describing her own sexual encounters of youth. I found myself wondering, is she really describing her own rape? The crying in the beginning of the book, the inability to concentrate, fatigue, feeling invisible, having no purpose, feeling washed up, etc. IS menopause. Longing to be dominated and basically raped every minute of the day is not menopause it's abuse that still affects her, but she is just now taking time out from motherhood to deal with it. Thus, this book....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Like the author, I am a Gen X mother who works from home in a fairly rural location while my spouse travels for work. I was intrigued by the author's perspective. While I found some great insight in the author's perspective of what it means to be an aging mother in the US, I also felt like the book lacked introspection. It was more a series of observations, stories, and musings rather than a cohesive work that led to any sort of concrete realization or epiphany. Although, perhaps that is, in its Like the author, I am a Gen X mother who works from home in a fairly rural location while my spouse travels for work. I was intrigued by the author's perspective. While I found some great insight in the author's perspective of what it means to be an aging mother in the US, I also felt like the book lacked introspection. It was more a series of observations, stories, and musings rather than a cohesive work that led to any sort of concrete realization or epiphany. Although, perhaps that is, in itself, the take-home message.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    This book is a perfect example of why I try to avoid memoirs by contemporary white middle-class heterosexual women like the plague. Dederer thinks she's being so edgy by writing candidly about her sexual history past and present but it's actually quite boring and ridiculously self-involved. Only a completely un-self-aware person could write sentences like "My mom got chocolate-frosting stains on the upholstery of my Prius and I was elaborately patient about it" and expect readers to feel some sy This book is a perfect example of why I try to avoid memoirs by contemporary white middle-class heterosexual women like the plague. Dederer thinks she's being so edgy by writing candidly about her sexual history past and present but it's actually quite boring and ridiculously self-involved. Only a completely un-self-aware person could write sentences like "My mom got chocolate-frosting stains on the upholstery of my Prius and I was elaborately patient about it" and expect readers to feel some sympathy for her. The only semi-interesting part was the chapter with the map of her former hangouts on the Ave in the 1980s, which provided a fascinating glimpse into the subculture of that neighborhood. As someone who moved here after most of those places had vanished, it was interesting to see what remained and what did not. If you've lived in Seattle for a while, that part might be worth reading. Otherwise don't waste your time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    I was very disappointed. I love Claire Dederer's writing, and this book has its moments. But I felt sad that she defines her life in relationship to men and not by her talent and accomplishments. In fact, it seems that she has subordinated her career to trying preserve a view of herself as a sexy, young woman. There is such power in middle age and she's missing it - and depriving us of what she would have had to offer if she could only stop looking in the mirror. You know, everybody is kinda slu I was very disappointed. I love Claire Dederer's writing, and this book has its moments. But I felt sad that she defines her life in relationship to men and not by her talent and accomplishments. In fact, it seems that she has subordinated her career to trying preserve a view of herself as a sexy, young woman. There is such power in middle age and she's missing it - and depriving us of what she would have had to offer if she could only stop looking in the mirror. You know, everybody is kinda slutty in their teens and twenties. It's just that most of us had more adult supervision. Hmm - now that's the interesting part of the story that she completely ignores. There's a novel in there - I hope she decides to write it someday.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Author was brave to write such a candid memoir but a little too self-indulgent and at times whiny for me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Henry Le Nav

    I enjoyed the frank discussion of her past and her struggle with mid-life crisis. I also liked her struggle with what she felt was the cause of her youthful promiscuity. But the part I found most compelling was chapter 21 On Victimhood, where she provides a short albeit brutally honest analysis of her desires, her discomfort at being a woman, and her deep need for sex: But there’s a deeper truth as well: I’m still freaked out (still!) simply by being a woman. I dress butch; I can barely stand to I enjoyed the frank discussion of her past and her struggle with mid-life crisis. I also liked her struggle with what she felt was the cause of her youthful promiscuity. But the part I found most compelling was chapter 21 On Victimhood, where she provides a short albeit brutally honest analysis of her desires, her discomfort at being a woman, and her deep need for sex: But there’s a deeper truth as well: I’m still freaked out (still!) simply by being a woman. I dress butch; I can barely stand to put on a skirt. It makes me feel like I’m in drag. The trappings of womanhood embarrass me utterly. At the same time I’m riven by my outsize sex drive. I hate being a woman, and yet I yearn to be fucked as a woman. I yearn to be dominated by a figure of incontestable authority, who will make me become what I never wanted to be: a woman. I don’t know how make myself a woman; you do it for me. Dederer, Claire. Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning (p. 222). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. I have by comparison had a rather tame and by modern standards a rather boring sexual life. Prior to marriage I had rare, unsatisfying, and mostly drunken sexual encounters, which I would now prefer never happened...even rare as they were. With my wife I found a deeply satisfying sexual relationship that is tightly intertwined with our love for each other like the snakes on a caduceus. We have been together for 43 years and married for almost 41 so boring or not I think we did something right. Yet I take none of this for granted. Sex is something that I contemplate a great deal about and I have often thought about this notion of the dominant male and submissive female, and as such, it is what I found so compelling in the above quote. Always fearing a lack of sexual equality, I prefer to think of this in softer terms than dominant and submissive, although good words seem to evade me. Yin and yang I think is closer to the truth. Perhaps penetrative and receptive. But my observation especially in our younger and more spry days, is that love making may have started out with me dominating her but it ended with the roles reversed where I was hanging on for dear life, having my back pounded and scratched, and often trying to keep from descending into helpless giggles over the pure fury of it. While my orgasms have always been paltry affairs, my wife's are these Wagnerian throes of gotterdammerung where the skies roar with thunder and lightening and the Earth rends and threatens to swallow us live. It is a magnificent gift from a Divine Feminine Goddess to mortal man. Boring? I don't think so. The other aspect that I have observed, especially in long sessions of afternoon delight is that there comes a point where the borders of male and female, dominant and submissive, and even lust falls away and we become innocent genderless children involved in a very serious form of play. So I enjoyed Dederer's thoughts and her ability to put them into meaningful words. It made me think of my own life and what sex has meant to my wife and I. All that said though, I am a bit disappointed with the book. Sex seems to be something that is removed from love for Dederer. I am sure she loves her husband and she acknowledges they have sex. But they seem to be two separate functions, or maybe I missed something. But for my wife and I, we make love, we don't fuck. It is just a matter of semantics? The sentimentality of old age? Perhaps, but while I can objectively call it sex, coitus, copulation, fucking...emotionally when I think of her and not so much of the act, no, it is love making. Sweet and perhaps a bit violent--but wonderfully so. I also enjoyed Dederer's prelude to this book, an article she wrote in The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/... EDIT: July 2, 2019. Here is an interesting review of Love and Trouble by Laura Kipnis that appeared in The Atlantic: Kipnis, Laura. Screw Wisdom, The Atlantic, June 2017: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Renée

    This is an unbearably depressing memoir and a frustrating book. As a girl, young woman, adult, and mom, the writer defines herself in relation to men. She realizes she's doing this, and she calls herself a feminist, but there is so little reflection that connects her self absorption with how she defines herself by and in relation to men that it (the focus on self, the repetition, even the sex) ends up grating. One wishes that she could break free. One wishes she could love sex without such a cle This is an unbearably depressing memoir and a frustrating book. As a girl, young woman, adult, and mom, the writer defines herself in relation to men. She realizes she's doing this, and she calls herself a feminist, but there is so little reflection that connects her self absorption with how she defines herself by and in relation to men that it (the focus on self, the repetition, even the sex) ends up grating. One wishes that she could break free. One wishes she could love sex without such a clear need for sex, even masturbation, to affirm her identity. This text has so much repetition that does not serve the story (stories) well and so much narcissism that I became really sad. Perhaps more reflection about what it means to have such privilege and yet to be so despondent would have strengthened the book. The writing is good, and there are many wonderful turns of phrase. As someone who grew up in Seattle in the Seventies and Eighties, I loved the sections focused on that rainy city. But I do not understand how such a messy book can be produced by such a good writer. It's sloppy. Were a series of published essays strung together to make this book? I'd skip this one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael Wise

    A life... I wonder how many parallels people can draw to Claire's eclectic,non-linear, chronically maligned memoir. I think hers is a story for most of us, men and women alike, born in the mid sixties to the mid seventies, that might help explain, or share (hello AA,my name is Bob and I'm an alcoholic) at the very least, her visceral experiences. It is a story to laugh at, to nod at and to smh. Her language and writing is wonderful, and her parentheticals are a delight as they are often what I wa A life... I wonder how many parallels people can draw to Claire's eclectic,non-linear, chronically maligned memoir. I think hers is a story for most of us, men and women alike, born in the mid sixties to the mid seventies, that might help explain, or share (hello AA,my name is Bob and I'm an alcoholic) at the very least, her visceral experiences. It is a story to laugh at, to nod at and to smh. Her language and writing is wonderful, and her parentheticals are a delight as they are often what I was thinking at her writing. Well done Ms. Dederer, i will never again scoff at a woman's memoir:)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rhea

    I love the premise of this book, and the writing really draws you in. But I couldn't understand why she avoided her queerness throughout. Maybe it's a generational difference - she is truly Gen X, while I am a Millennial cusper, obsessed with identity like the rest. I loved how brave and honest this book was. It was also unconsciously white, which was annoying. Maybe it's hard to read a memoir of this kind as a therapist- there was so much underneath her words that wanted pulling out. But ultima I love the premise of this book, and the writing really draws you in. But I couldn't understand why she avoided her queerness throughout. Maybe it's a generational difference - she is truly Gen X, while I am a Millennial cusper, obsessed with identity like the rest. I loved how brave and honest this book was. It was also unconsciously white, which was annoying. Maybe it's hard to read a memoir of this kind as a therapist- there was so much underneath her words that wanted pulling out. But ultimately this book was a fascinating read, so I want to talk about it more, especially with my friends who are finding themselves in middle age, figuring out a new stage of sexuality.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dona

    Five stars for using the word "ensorcelled." Five stars for using the word "ensorcelled."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarahc Caflisch

    Currently in the mood for searing self-reflection. This, like Lightsey Darst's "The Thousands" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...) made me feel a sense of danger while reading it. What will happen when an author examines every last dark corner of female desire, both in life and in writing? If one strays off the well-lit path, is one automatically Little Red Riding Hood or Madame Bovary? Or, like the most ancient strayer and pomegranate-seed-eater, can you be crowned Queen of the Dead AND Currently in the mood for searing self-reflection. This, like Lightsey Darst's "The Thousands" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...) made me feel a sense of danger while reading it. What will happen when an author examines every last dark corner of female desire, both in life and in writing? If one strays off the well-lit path, is one automatically Little Red Riding Hood or Madame Bovary? Or, like the most ancient strayer and pomegranate-seed-eater, can you be crowned Queen of the Dead AND be the reason spring comes every year? Obvs gave me a lot to gnaw on, and appreciated the sharp writing in the book and intellectual foundation on which the self-reflection and emotional exploration is built.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Newhauser

    This book started out slow for me and I found it a bit confusing with the ages and the jumping around but I love that the author talked so freely about sex, specifically her sex life. As a woman, we tend not to be so open about our sex lives. I just hope that things are better with her and her husband now. 😂😂

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    Claire Dederer's earlier book "Poser: My Life in Twenty Three Yoga Poses" was one of my favorite reads in the past few years, it poked gentle fun at the lifestyles of young families in North Seattle, including hers, while also giving candid descriptions of the real challenges of two writers raising two young children. Her frankness made her affection for her husband and children all the more sincere. "Love and Trouble" is another memoir written after the family has moved to an island a ferry ride Claire Dederer's earlier book "Poser: My Life in Twenty Three Yoga Poses" was one of my favorite reads in the past few years, it poked gentle fun at the lifestyles of young families in North Seattle, including hers, while also giving candid descriptions of the real challenges of two writers raising two young children. Her frankness made her affection for her husband and children all the more sincere. "Love and Trouble" is another memoir written after the family has moved to an island a ferry ride from Seattle. It balances her current life with her wild younger, very sexually adventurous self. A strength of her memoir is her continued honesty. She acknowledges that the outward appearance of a perfect life; continuing to be in love with a great husband, having two wonderful children, achieving success and fame as a writer, having tons of best friends often contrasts with reality and bouts of depression and crying. She also writes of the tension between her current monogamous life with her sexual exploits that started in high school and continued through her adulthood until she met her husband, acknowledging some post marriage flirtations. She also ruminates on various topics including two letters to Roman Polanski that focus on her daughter being the same age as the victim of Polanski's rape victim. Though as I read those letters I thought of Dederer's explicit descriptions of her earlier sex life in other chapters and considered the reactions when her daughter and certainly her daughter's friends read these scenes and how that somewhat undercuts Dederer's holier than thou attitude in her Polanski chapters. Dederer seemingly explains her promiscuous years with a quasi sexual assault by an older friend of her mom when she was young. I found that chapter to be unconvincing. Much more satisfying was the following paragraph describing an early interaction with Victoria who later becomes Dederer's best friend which also showcases Dederer's wonderful writing. "...I was subjecting Dave to an extravagant flirtation. Somehow we had started talking about power tools--not in a dirty way just in a silly way--and we were laughing about drills and table saws until we couldn't get our breath, leaning into each other and egging each other on. Finally Dave got up to get more beer. Victoria, sweet Vic, always a sport, always ready with a laugh, always the nicest person in the room, looked at me with a smile on her face and said 'Why don't you sit next to your own boyfriend?' All in all, this is a great, honest and often funny read

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linor David

    Seeing as how I'm turning 40 tomorrow, this book seemed appropriate to read. Claire takes us through both her midlife crisis and her sexed up youth. There were many moments when I was feeling like it was a whole lot of navel gazing, but because our navels are somewhat similar, middle aged woman, with a partner and two kids whose has put their youth aside, I mostly enjoyed it. The thing about the book was there were lots of spot on moments of truth and keen observation. I thought she was brave to Seeing as how I'm turning 40 tomorrow, this book seemed appropriate to read. Claire takes us through both her midlife crisis and her sexed up youth. There were many moments when I was feeling like it was a whole lot of navel gazing, but because our navels are somewhat similar, middle aged woman, with a partner and two kids whose has put their youth aside, I mostly enjoyed it. The thing about the book was there were lots of spot on moments of truth and keen observation. I thought she was brave to share her stories- it isn't that often you find a memoir about someone's sex life. But I found it awkward too- knowing that she has a husband and two kids and that so much of what I would find personal she puts on the page. But I was grateful to her for putting it out there and I thought about how true it is that when someone opens up about something then other people are given permission to do the same. She writes about how that happened to her after she wrote an article about women and sex, but it is happening all around us now with #metoo. Lots of pieces of her life and relationships are almost unbearably messy. But everyone has messes, most people just try and sweep them under the rug. Maybe by middle age you are happy not have broken relationships everywhere you turn, but also, like Claire- maybe you miss the excitement of them. I wish she had spent more time making the book flow more. There were a lot of moments I felt were repetitive. Sometimes she added a new insight- but sometimes not. And part of me felt it put me into her mind frame- how she was hashing and rehashing her life, looking for meaning, looking for clues. And sometimes I just wanted her to keep moving. No one wants to be alone in their experiences. I think her book works at making readers- especially those who grew up in the 70s and 80s- see some of their experiences reflected back at them. But I also almost felt like she was putting out feelers- are there others like me? Her relationship with her best friend was oddly not satisfying in this way, are they helping each other make sense of the world or are they just each other's pity party? I don't know. I guess maybe both. But overall I liked it. We need way more versions of women's sexuality out there. And hers was real and gritty and a bit raw and not prettied up and uncomfortable and wry. And I think that is important right now.

  28. 5 out of 5

    christa

    It’s been so long since I discovered a writer I did on a personal level -- a woman I didn’t know about who is living, sharing planet space, making sentences, raising kids and perfecting yoga poses. Claire Dederer, essayist, is enough like me to make me want to read EVERYTHING and enough not like me to leave room for me to nod along with or frown and think, “Hmm.” I adore her. It started with “Love and Trouble,” a collection of self-reflection she approaches with the curiosity of a detective. She It’s been so long since I discovered a writer I did on a personal level -- a woman I didn’t know about who is living, sharing planet space, making sentences, raising kids and perfecting yoga poses. Claire Dederer, essayist, is enough like me to make me want to read EVERYTHING and enough not like me to leave room for me to nod along with or frown and think, “Hmm.” I adore her. It started with “Love and Trouble,” a collection of self-reflection she approaches with the curiosity of a detective. She examines old diaries to piece together her sexual past, which includes an unsettling encounter when she’s 13 with an older asshole, her teen years in Seattle, and what it felt like to have an emotional fling with another writer. Some pieces read like writing exercises, a sort of street map to her life and an open letter to Roman Polanski. Regardless, I closed the book and went straight to the library for a copy of “Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses,” which is essays about the early years of motherhood and more -- using her place on the mat as a vehicle to dig deeper.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    Worth it for the "Dear Roman Polanski" essay/chapter. Holy shit. The rest of the book veers between interesting and blah, sometimes in the space of a sentence - Dederer is a fun writer, willing to open up about herself and her flaws in pursuit of (perhaps) a larger truth... but, as she seems to discern with a faux-scientific-essay midway through the book, there might not be a conclusion here. The 'reckoning' of the subtitle may in fact be misleading: there is no conclusion so much as there is an Worth it for the "Dear Roman Polanski" essay/chapter. Holy shit. The rest of the book veers between interesting and blah, sometimes in the space of a sentence - Dederer is a fun writer, willing to open up about herself and her flaws in pursuit of (perhaps) a larger truth... but, as she seems to discern with a faux-scientific-essay midway through the book, there might not be a conclusion here. The 'reckoning' of the subtitle may in fact be misleading: there is no conclusion so much as there is an on-going. Still, this kind of on-going is the kind that we, societally, need right now: we need to keep having conversations about female sexuality, about the way men take advantage of women, about the way women are just as sexual as men are if not more so sometimes. And that Roman Polanski essay. Goddamn.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Trista

    I think a lot of things. I had annoyances and I am left with structural grievances. Like the ending. The ending is so damn lame, wow. But fuck it. It's a worth while book for many reasons, and none more important than examining the blind search for their own sexuality that women go through in a world dominated by and focused on male pleasure. So read it if you're interested in female sexuality, but whatever you do please do not take this as some universal experience. I did not find myself in the p I think a lot of things. I had annoyances and I am left with structural grievances. Like the ending. The ending is so damn lame, wow. But fuck it. It's a worth while book for many reasons, and none more important than examining the blind search for their own sexuality that women go through in a world dominated by and focused on male pleasure. So read it if you're interested in female sexuality, but whatever you do please do not take this as some universal experience. I did not find myself in the pages of this book, but I found recognizable pieces here and there.

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