A heartless book?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

This review sounds scathing, although I’m actually interested in reading the book now, because the reviewer concedes it manages to stay stylish despite its flaws:

Here it is again. The voice. The single white woman in New York figuring out her s- – - and drinking too much wine voice. Confessional, casual, brash, tell-it-like-it-is, flawed-yet-familiar, ostentatiously relatable.

Sometimes I feel like we’ve all made some blood pact to call this voice original and brave 20 years since it’s been either. In fact, All Grown Up is a book so of the zeitgeist that if you took it onto the G train it would just dissolve and merge with the air. In the past few years, it has become one of the voices I encounter most, a voice that seems to demand that I identify with it. Live life unapologetically! the voice cries. Indulge yourself but judge others relentlessly! the voice cries. Throw off the accoutrements of conventional domestic life while still reinforcing the systems that underlie it! the voice cries.

This book is attractive in several ways: the reading is so easy you slide through it like a knife through butter. It’s occasionally witty. The structure is surprising and original. Attenberg has written something like overlapping short stories that reintroduce information we already have as if it is new, but with new emphases and nuances. It mirrors the way we tell our own stories, reshading them to fit the circumstances, cutting this, adding that to make the narrative we’re using for our ends.

The Voice isn’t always shallow: I read and loved deeper versions of it in Emily Gould, Lena Dunham, and Maria Semple (two of whom blurbed this book). All four authors ask how to be happy — but Gould, Dunham, and Semple go on to ask how to be good.

In the end, All Grown Up is a stylish book based on a series of mistakes: that being single means being unattached, but also that that self-loathing is the same as self-reflection, brashness is the same as bravery, that announcing your faults exonerates you, that being charming matters more than being kind, and that our own personal fulfillment is paramount.