Mid-May Check-in? Words and phrases about The Book of V. and Untamed (again)

So here we are, on this 20th evening of the month of May (I can’t decide if time is flying or crawling), and I have to admit that my book progress so far is pretty pathetic. To give myself SOME credit, I did have a chunk of April to finish before I could launch into May (I’m looking at you Sam Irby and Glennon Doyle) but it was worth it because they were both great books.

The pile on the right are the May books I’ve finished- The City We Became by N.K. Jemison and The Book of V. by Anna Solomon.

The pile in the middle I’m chewing through right now, and the spines of the books on the left have yet to be cracked. THERE’S STILL TIME, PEOPLE, BUT REALLY WHAT EVEN IS TIME RIGHT NOW?!?!?!

I’ll process through The City We Became later (spoiler alert- it was a lot of tentacly fun), but I finished The Book of V. last night and have SO. MANY. THOUGHTS. TO. SHARE. Forgive me for omitting a summary- you can find one any number of places on the interwebs by smart interwebby people who will summarize it way better than I would.

Onwards!

It was a little bit of personal kismet to read The Book of V. so soon after reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle- both books have a lot to say about the female (and also human) experience of never feeling fully formed or complete. Being a person is HARD, the work is never-ending, and there is that constant feeling of being “in progress” despite thinking, “I’m 20/30/40/50/60/70/400/etc years old- shouldn’t I feel more whole by now?? Shouldn’t I have my shit together? Why do I still have a laundry couch? Where is my breaker box and how do I not electrocute myself? What’s the correct thing to say in a sympathy card? What is this tiny human doing running around my house screaming about bugs and how do I convince him he does not need to scream about bugs when all I want to do when I see a bug is scream? When is the DIY project that is me finally FINISHED FOR CHRISSAKE?!?!”

Some of the lines from The Book of V. that brought this to life for me (especially on the last two pages):

“…the type of woman you imagine yourself becoming does not exist.”

“…..an understanding of Ruth as something not solid but assembled, built of everything she could grab hold of.”

“And for so long her own sense that she is still in a state of assembly has made her ashamed.”

“If Lily has been waiting for some kind of transformation, she understands now that none is coming. No new Lily, only herself, moving forward, a little less ashamed.”

From Untamed:

“When I was in my twenties, I believed that somewhere there existed a perfect human woman. She woke up beautiful, unbloated, clear skinned, fluffy haired, fearless, lucky in love, calm, and confident. Her life was . . . easy. She haunted me like a ghost. I tried so hard to be her.”

“If you are uncomfortable- in deep pain, angry, yearning, confused- you don’t have a problem. You have a life. Being a human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, it’s hard because you’re doing it right.”

See where I’m going with this yet?? I have always walked around with a baseline undercurrent of uncertainty/insecurity- but recent events have caused that baseline level to wake up, yawn, stretch its legs, look around in confusion and say, “HEY LADY THAT WAS CUTE AND ALL BUT WHY DON’T WE DIAL YOUR ANXIETY AND PANIC LEVEL UP TO LIKE A 42. COOL?! PLEASE KEEP READING THE NEWS FOR SURE, IT WILL DEFINITELY HELP- ESPECIALLY IF YOU GET IT FROM STRANGERS ON FACEBOOK.”

The silver lining is, I know for sure I am not alone, and stories about women like Glennon Doyle (a real human) or Vee and Lily (not real humans but may as well be) are certainly helpful in keeping some perspective. The three women featured in the Book of V. are all traveling along their respective trajectories of complete(less)ness, but it is predictably the easiest to relate to Lily- the contemporary character in her 40s struggling with how she ended up where she is. Uhhhh…..can anyone relate? Anyone?

There is also a lot of unexpected humor sprinkled throughout the book- there is a mention of dog genitals that I really don’t want to spoil for anyone, and then this gem:

“But suddenly Vivian Barr has propped her elbows on the table- a move as surprising coming from her as a fart might be from someone else….”

Which, of course, had me in stitches as any good fart joke will do. I can barely get through (correction- CANNOT get through) a reading of Walter the Farting Dog without losing it.

One of my favorite pieces of Lily’s story involved sewing her girls’ costumes- and her ambivalence about slash feelings of obligation to complete them. My mom always made my Halloween costumes, and it’s something I’ll try to do as long my my kid will let me- but as soon as he gets into character costumes I’m out. This is him as a bumblebee last year:

Bottom line? I loved The Book of V. It’s important that women are frequently reminded that our thoughts and feelings are universal.

A final aside- I have a compulsion to read (or usually buy and never read) books that are mentioned in a book I’m reading (even a teeny tiny mention), or were influences on a book I’m reading, or are suggested readings in a book I’m reading. It’s for sure a never-ending death trap (one day I will LITERALLY be trapped in my house behind books), but as a result of Untamed and The Book of V., here are a few books that are on their way to me via magic carpet:

There’s also roughly $40 of kidlit on bugs on the way. ANY suggestions on books/tactics/etc. on how to train a small child to not scream bloody fucking murder at the sight of a fruit fly will be considered.

That’s it. Love you all.

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