Grand Central Publishing
Anyone writing personal essays probably worries about the tumble over into indulgence. Here the book isn’t subtitled “Personal Essays” to merely spell it out – at least I assume that’s not the case, rather because the title So Sad Today started as an anonymous Twitter handle. Broder – who came out as the owner/writer behind the tweets only last year after building an audience by assuming a universal voice in the way that other Twitter handles like Shit My Dad Says – has decided to follow up her published poetry with this collection, its title coming from the Twitter account, many of the titles of the essays (“The Terror In My Heart Says Hi”, “I Want To Be A Whole Person: really thin”, “I Took The Internet Addiction Quiz and Won”) feel like they could have been individual tweets.
Unfortunately, in the quest for honesty, Broder doesn’t just stumble towards indugence – she rides the log-flume over the edge, selfie-stick in one hand, pen in the other.
The writing in So Sad Today is juvenile and so horribly forced. The aim behind the book is to show a life of anxiety, depression and awareness – to celebrate the quirks and foibles or at least to try to understand them. And this is of course all to be admired. But too often it feels like Broder wants to shock (countless sex stories including a vomit fetish) or at least wants to set that feeling up and then pull the rug: Who are you, reader, to be shocked by all this? The writer has had to live it!
As diaries of a teenager this would be understandable. But Broder comes across, too often, as the wannabe hip aunty or mother. The tag-along not ready to hang up last decade’s go-go boots.
Maybe I’m – quite obviously – not the demographic. But good writing should transcend gender. I appreciate that I’m not going to have the understanding of distinctly female emotions or rather emotions that result from distinctly female situations – but it became too hard to relate in any way to this writing. And don’t hold an open marriage up as some powerful statement of shared strength and freedom when the husband and wife have different “rules” to adhere to. That sounds more restrictive and restricting than a garden-variety marriage.
The book has some funny passages – the absurdity of a relationship built around nearly-anonymous sexting is humourous though the point is laboured. But mostly this just grates. It feels like no editorial input was ever going to be required because the audience has already been built. In that same respect this is a complete waste of my time writing this. The audience is clearly there for this book already. I just wish I hadn’t bought into back-cover hype, book-shop placement and one or two people I trusted talking up this book as if it was clever and profound. It’s not even close to either.