How do you write a memoir that’s all about love without becoming a cliche? Mandy Len Catron did exactly that by writing an insanely popular essay for the New York Times titled “to fall in love with anyone, do this” which was eventually turned into her memoir/book of essays called How to Fall In Love With Anyone. I have a few misgivings and doubts about this book now that I’ve read it, but I’ll still recommend it to my girlfriends because I know EACH AND EVERYONE OF THEM has pondered the topics Catron addresses in this book.
Firstly, let me say how much I hate a book of essays; I think it’s a lazy form of writing. Basically it’s just taking a bunch of stories and not connecting them, but if a few more months were spent in the editing process a coherent path could be drawn through each story connecting them properly which would make it much more enjoyable to read…but I digress.
Catron takes us on a journey through her (fairly young) life, beginning with the dissolution of her 10 year romantic relationships and interspersing stories of her parents divorce after 28 years, her grandmother’s marriage at 15 (to a 31 year old no less), and some academic research thrown in here and there.
She also explores the culture around dating and love. One of my favourite quotes clarifies this fascination we have with other people’s relationships:
Not everyone who eats imagines herself a dietitian, but nearly everyone who has loved-which is nearly everyone-presumes to know something about how to do it right (p. 161, ARC).
So true!!!! I couldn’t agree with this statement more, and I think it points out the absurdity of giving friends and family romantic advice. Not that I think we should stop that, because it’s super fun, but we shouldn’t take this advice so seriously!
Another one of my favourite parts of the book was Catron’s dissection of specific fairy tales and how this has shaped the way women see love. She also points out that many popular women’s magazines feature articles on how to be a pleasing partner above all else. This observation is by no means unique, but it’s worth repeating until we smarten up and stop reading crap like that.
So I found this book really illuminating for some of the reasons above, but it probably goes without saying that each person will have a different reaction to this based on their relationship status alone. I’m disappointed that I didn’t come away with any overall ‘message’ from the book, but I suppose that’s the point.
Lastly, I highly recommend you read Arthur Aron’s 36 questions (which plays a role in Catron’s life) because it’s a fun exercise to do with your partner/friend/tinder date. The questions are reprinted at the back of the book, or you can click on the link I provided above.
Ah, love! See, if men were made of chocolate how easy it would be! Love at first sight, a period of intense longing, desire and anticipation, and then eat him and get another… *wipes chocolate crumbs from chin*
Oohhhhh I like that idea! life would be so much easier -sigh-
I’m going to make the argument that when you’re a fat lady like me, EVERYONE who sees you eat thinks they’re a dietician.
Ugh that’s awful, I’m sorry you have to deal with that although I totally believe it too! I’ve heard that from other people as well
Thank you! I appreciate your comment 😊
This one sounds really interesting! I love psychological/sociological books, and I’m specially intrigued by the love/relationships theme.
This reminded me of Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance”, which I really want to read. They both address the same issues, even though the latter has a more comedic spin to it, of course.
I’m glad you enjoyed this, even though it doesn’t really carry a message at the end. Wonderful review, Anne!
Thank you Sophie! I actually downloaded Aziz’s book in audio form (he narrates it, which is totally fun) but I kind of forgot about it and haven’t listened to it since. Did you like it?
I hadn’t read it yet when I commented on the post, but talking about it made me want to go and get it!
So yeah, so far I’m really enjoying it. I think it’s a clever audiobook without being pretentious, which is rare. Plus, Aziz is just so adorable and funny, I can’t not listen to him!
I love Aziz, he is hilarious!
Absolutely! I didn’t think I would enjoy his book as much as I did, but I wish it had been longer… It was such a quick read!
As someone trying to write love scenes in a novel at the moment, this sounds like essential reading. Thank you for flagging this one up!
you are most welcome-and good luck!
I’m going to torment my husband with those questions! 🙂
Actually, they look really fun.
Does it really explain how to fall in love with anyone? Maybe we also need a book called How To Fall Out of Love With Anyone. Some people have that problem, as well. 🙂
I like FF’s idea… it reminds me of spiders!
I love your idea Naomi, I think that book could help A LOT of people
Maybe even more!
Not sure, I’ll have time to read the book , but thank you for adding the podcast it was a great 23 minutes of reflecting.
Glad you enjoyed it!
Hi! Thanks for taking time to read and review my book! I really appreciate it. (seriously, it’s still kind of mind-blowing to me that people around the world are reading this thing that spent so many years just taking up space in my brain!) I have strong feelings about essay collections and tend to think they work differently than memoirs in important ways. I wrote more about why the form works for me and this particular subject here: http://www.powells.com/post/original-essays/how-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone
Hello and thank you for reading my review! I suspect we will be meeting shortly when you come to calgary, looking forward to it 🙂
This book really appeals to me
you should pick it up! It’s a fairly quick read too which is nice 🙂