Sure, I’m writing about myself. Duh. But that’s not the point of this book or these essays. I hope you will project your mistakes and failures and heartaches and joys onto mine. I hope you will feel a touch of participation mystique while reading about my sometimes poor decisions. Unless you’re perfect. In which case…
This essay collection by Chloe Caldwell is very much about being a messy person, who isn’t always responsible and who doesn’t know what to do a lot of the time. I am not, and have never been, messy in the ways Chloe Caldwell is messy. That was evident from the first essay, all about doing drugs and asking men on Craigslist to buy her steaks. But I liked that, in the specificity, there’s a lot that can apply to anyone looking back on their own particular messes.
The first essay is probably the weakest and least representative of the bunch, because the messiness depicted feels so stereotypical, despite the specificity of the steak and scotch dates. I tended to prefer the essays about experiences that don’t get written about so much, like quitting singing or planning to have a celebrity over for the weekend. (Yes, that latter sounds like it’s totally unrelatable, but it’s all about getting excited about something and realizing it’s not all that.)
Most of the essays combine anecdotes with reflections, a pretty typical confessional essay structure. Caldwell treats her past self with gentleness, musing over what she felt at the time and what she feels now. She experiments with form in “The Laziest Coming Out Story You’ve Ever Heard,” which is written in bullet points. It’s just seemingly random observations about being bisexual, and I thought it was pretty great. The form seems to echo her disinterest in having a formal coming out story, with a clear narrative about her identity. She just experiences who she is moment by moment, in bullet points.
Overall, a pretty solid collection.