FTC note: Atria Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, sent a copy of this book to AskMissA.com for review back in the spring.
Much to Your Chagrin: A Memoir of Embarrassment by Suzanne Guillette might be cursed. I found myself doing many embarrassing things while reading it; mostly embarrassments of agility, occasional embarrassments of judgment, and a few embarrassments of speling. Wink.
Suzanne was a twenty-nine year old aspiring writer with an idea for a book: collect other peoples’ embarrassing stories and attempt to make sense of the human condition and shame. In the process, she (oops!) mixed her personal and professional life, dating a literary agent who promised her the world and then emotionally dropped out of it.
Her memoir is written almost entirely in the second person. It’s an interesting choice, but I think it was unnecessary. For me, it made getting into the writing difficult, because when Guillette says things like “the greasy, bony flatness of your decolletage in V-neck sweaters,” I snort: As if. Our differences alienated me at first. While I did eventually get over it, I didn’t get there until halfway through the book, and I think that that might be a bit too long for readers who don’t feel obligated to read every word of a free book. The afterword, however, was written in the first person, and it was engaging and fresh. Guillette has the skill and talent to affect the same emotional resonance while writing in the first peson, and it might have made it easier to invest in her memoir earlier.
Days later, I’m still thinking about Much to Your Chagrin. It is one of those books where I wasn’t aware while reading it that I was reading something good, but I’ve been unable to stop thinking about it afterwards, which tells me that it might warrant a re-read. I’ll just have to wear kneepads and remember to run spell-check.