Tuesday, January 21, 2014
(If, by chance, you've missed out on my Jen Doll love, this post is for you.)
You can imagine then, how happily I have anticipated an early copy of this remarkable young woman's first book, a memoir called Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest (Riverhead, May 1). I know how witty wise Jen is, for I read her blogs, reviews, and stories. I know how crackerjack smart; plug into her Twitter channel and find out for yourself. But I also know, because I have met her and corresponded with her, because we have talked at length about memoir by phone, how much she cares about her work, her words, her living. Jen may be hysterical, in many hours of many days. She may be totally plugged into The Now. But she is also intelligent and searching, thoughtful and grammatical, richly in tune with the cosmic wonder of a chaotic universe.
All the radiance of Jen is right here, in her book.
Save the Date, a book described as "a hilarious and insightful examination of the search for love and the meaning of marriage in a time of anxiety, independence, and indecision" is not thwarted by bitterness, not slight in its purpose, not mired in revenge—all the things such a book might have been in the hands of another writer.
It is, instead, a real memoir—the sort of story that pulls the reader up short with memories of her own decisions and indecisions, her own false tunes. We all grow up wondering if we will meet the one. We all pretend, sometimes, to know what we are doing. We are all happy for our friends, though sometimes we feel excluded by their joy, and perhaps we embarrass ourselves and at our best we apologize and because we must, we start again. We need advice. We give advice. We let the wounds heal, we lick the wounds. Maybe we haven't confessed all the sloppy muck of it to others, and maybe we've been less than honest with ourselves. In Save the Date Jen Doll tells the truth. She does that thing that great memoirists do—makes sure we're not alone.
I loved learning, from Save the Date—about the family Jen loves, the humor that shaped her, the nicknames she gave her younger brother. I loved seeing glimpses of her at work, glimpses of her in the mirror in fabulous shoes, glimpses of her working through the many gears of many friendships, glimpses of her at so many weddings. I worried for her sometimes. I rooted for her, always. I was brought in close, by quiet moments such as these:
The decision not to be together forever means, to each other, you become nothing more than a memory, a series of photographs, some stories, and, of course, whatever you've learned and will take with you to the next relationship. Those things are not nothing. Yet there was love there once, and then there's not, I wonder where it goes.I have a very good feeling about Save the Date. And I have an even deeper affection, now, for Jen.