It’s known by now that I’m a fan of memoirs, given that I’m easily swept up in the juicy secrets of someone’s thoughts and secrets without having to reciprocate; it’s bliss for my nosy self. With this new release part-memoir, part-VERY long personality test, Choose Your Own Disaster is a manifesto about the millennial experience and modern feminism and how the easy advice of “you can be anything you want!” is actually pretty fucking difficult when there are so many possible versions of yourself it seems like you could be. Dana has no idea who she is, but at least she knows she’s a Carrie, a Ravenclaw, a Raphael, a Belle, a former emo kid, a Twitter addict, and a millennial just trying her best.
This memoir-ish book was a) entertaining b) morally questionable and c) utterly vulnerable when covering such topics as:
- eating disorders, bulimia, and binge-eating.
- the creation of @GuyInYourMFA. And the story behind the profile picture:
You are definitely, and almost assuredly illegally, using his picture (you had done a Google image search for “guy in hat” and gone with the best candidate). You apologize, profusely, and that afternoon you bring a slouchy hat you own to meet your friend Simon in the library, the same library where you took your Introduction to Fiction class, and you ask him to stand there, against the shelves, and you take a hundred pictures of him with your cell phone and replace the picture of the stranger by that afternoon.
- tinder dating while on her Eurotrip and meeting a genuinely nice guy.
You and Rory will stay in touch, and you’ll flirt and text and email your writing back and forth for months, a year, after you meet. Once, you will sing and play the guitar over Skype while he accompanies you on glockenspiel and secretly you’ll imagine a version of your story in which you and Rory end up together. You’ll imagine loving him, and you like how it fits. But you only talk in words on a screen anymore, and then, one day, both of you will meet someone else and fall in love for real and will have to tell the other person, a stranger across the ocean who you were never actually dating, that you’re actually with someone else now. Whatever flame you two had, whatever nonrelationship, will be quietly folded and put away in the linen closet.
- celebrity sightings and her internship at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
- titles like, “Are You an Introvert or Just a Lazy Asshole?”.
But my reading experience encountered some minor hindrances when it came to the series of men in this book…
Firstly, I couldn’t help but hear the uncanny resemblance Dana Schwartz’s writing voice bore to Esther’s from the TV series Alone Together (probably because they’re both New York millennial Jewish girls). In particular, those moments when Dana’s hanging on to a guy who’s giving her the clear ‘He’s just not that into you’ signals (which she herself notes more than once).
I appreciated when Dana focused more on chronicling her personal life, instead of wasting time on the men in her life that ditched her or vice versa, like a broken record. (I have to admit, though, that I felt delicious victory at putting together the identity of a certain established writer she was keen on that ended up ghosting her…) It threw me off with the overtly sexual details that I truly don’t care enough to spend pages on pages. I mean, there’s this lawyer dude that I skipped reading (because he came off as the biggest creep), but he was still written about for over twenty pages…
If nothing else, the aforementioned made for a comical line in her acknowledgments:
To all of the men I’ve slept with, thank you for giving me what I needed in that moment, for making me feel special or wanted or loved. And if you hurt me, thank you for helping me to learn while I was young. Hope you bought this book full price just to see if I wrote about you.
Oh, what last lines…
On another note: I couldn’t shake off my annoyance when it came to the constant excuses for her bad calls by comparing herself to problematic fictional women. It just brings home the point that fiction shapes your viewpoint, in particular, when she tries to brush off flirting and sleeping with a married man by using these women from TV shows that cheated (Carrie Bradshaw, Rory Gilmore, Olivia Pope). Everything about this screams midlife-crisis-with-precocious-college-kid.
If I’d gotten a more individual take on Dana Schwartz as a person – not Dana Schwartz in a relationship – I would’ve grown to appreciate this memorable take on memoirs that more.
ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Expected publication: June 19th, 2018