Thursday, December 17, 2009

Face in the Mirror & Behind the Bedroom Door: two books you'll love

I love memoir anthologies, and I have two marvelous ones to recommend to you. Both offer engrossing, well-crafted, personal stories from seasoned writers, many--maybe most--of them our age.

Face in the Mirror: Writers Reflect on Their Dreams of Youth and the Reality of Age, ed. Victoria Zackheim, features twenty writers looking themselves in the face. How did they see themselves when they were young and had their lives in front of them? What (usually bad) decisions did they make as they struggled to figure out their life direction and relationship choices? What have they learned since then, and who are they now? The writers are honest and intriguing, and the wisdom of age is affirmed in every story.

Sometimes the "face in the mirror" theme is literal: appearance, self-image. Other times these writers look at their upraising, their goals, their career choices, their relationship mistakes. The stark difference between where they thought they were headed and where they actually ended up should be a useful warning to young people fretting about their goals. Whatever you plan won't work the way you think. And that's usually a good thing.

Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting It, Giving It, Loving It, Missing It, ed. Paula Derrow, present 26 candid, often funny essays about sexual urges, preferences, experiences, longings, and embarrassments from women writers. Many are our age, reflecting on past experiences or celebrating current ones.

Some of these essays are sweet, like Hope Edelman's memory of 15-year-old sex ("Two people touching each other in all the right places, because there were no wrong places then, doing it for no reason other than it felt good and to keep doing it felt even better."). Some are full of erotic discovery, energy, self-assertion. Some may disturb you, like Abby Sher's essay about anorexia, cutting and a lover helpless to stop either, and Julie Powell's essay about her need for rough sex ("D was a perceptive lover, perceptive enough to know before I did that I wanted him to hit me, control me, hurt me.") All are powerfully written.

If you're still making gift-giving decisions, you can't go wrong with one of these books. For other recommended books that I've reviewed, click here.

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