Wednesday, July 22, 2009

a Review of "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way"

I'm Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog by Diana Joseph (G.P.Putnam's Sons, ISBN 978-0-399-15528-4)

It may be a true story, but it is hardly astonishing, although I will give it extra points for having quite a title. And a very true title (except for that astonishing part) it is, because this is the story, a memoir, exploring Ms. Joseph's life through her relationships with a number of men, from her usually bare chested, Lucky chain smoking father, her brothers (you will excuse the word) the "assholes", a several times married, lumberjack, ex-husband, to her professor boyfriend, her son...or as she calls him "the boy"... and my personal favorite, her dinosaur toy humping dog. Or maybe her Devil worshiping neighbor is my favorite....

"The boy", her teenage son, is without question, the best part of her world, as she states in the acknowledgments. Their life together has not always been the easiest and let's say they see the world in slightly different ways, her free wheeling, liberal ways rejected by her NRA joining, conservative offspring. But she loves him, his extreme hygiene issues aside, without question and sees her own parenting in a refreshingly realistic...and amusing....way.
My thirteen years of parenting this boy can be summed up in three sentiments:
I adore you.
What the hell do you want from me now?
I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!
Now, I am not a parent, but that seems pretty spot

They are a checkered lot, these men in her life, starting of course, with her father, from whom arises the whole "slut' issue.
"Now, look," my father says, "When a girl goes with this one and then with that one, and then with that one over there, and with who knows how many others, what happens is people start to talk. People will always hear all about what see did, see, and when they do, they'll talk about it. They'll say that girl is a pig."
The Lucky dangled from my father's lips and his eyes were squinty from the smoke. He raised his eyebrows. He was jabbing his finger at me. Moving only half his mouth, my father said, "Don't be a pig."
That was the first time my father ever talked to me about sex. It would be his final word on the matter. Neither he nor I would speak of it again.
As she will admit, she did not take his advice, with some amusing, some cringe worthy and some sad consequences.
Which also pretty much sums up my feeling on all the 15 or so stories in this book. Some are quite amusing, some made me shake my head in disbelief and at least one was almost heartbreakingly sad.

All in all, I didn't love this book, but I didn't hate it.
I am just not sure there was enough here to make a really good book in my opinion. Ms. Joseph is a good writer. Some of the stories on their own are enjoyable and entertaining, but something is missing to tie them together as a whole. Maybe I just think that a memoir should have more to offer than a few good stories. I am starting to wonder if I have an issue with the whole genre of memoirs, since I have read a few recently that left me a little cold. Or is it, as I actually suspect, that there are more and more memoirs being written that may relate some interesting or amusing or sad incidents from an individual's life, but that leave me wondering what this has to say to me, what the point is.

I won't give this one a head's up or a head's down in the coin toss as to a recommendation, but sort of leave the coin resting on the edge. If you love memoirs, you may enjoy it, if not, you might want to pass it by.

Here are a couple of other reviews of the book for your consideration...
the Book Lady's Blog


  1. As soon as I saw your post title, I grabbed my List, and lo and behold, there it was. I have no idea from where I got the notion to read this book. But now I'm rethinking it. I like memoirs usually, but I like there to be a point. Hmmmm.

  2. Yep, this pretty well mirrors my thoughts on the book. On The Worst Review Ever, Diana Joseph wrote: I just knew if I included the word "astonishing" in the subtitle, someone would make a point to say my book isn't astonishing in the least. More than one, Diana. Sorry 'bout that!

  3. one wonder why she included the word then...

    Ali, I think you make an excellent point about the unnerving fact of defining herself totally in terms of the men in her life. I actually had to go back, since I read the book a few weeks ago, to see if there was a mention of her mother. there was....briefly.

  4. I'm a pretty big fan of memoirs ... I don't need a meaning per se ... just some good writing to either entertain me or make me sad. I guess that makes me a bit shallow!! : )

  5. no, no...I guess I just want someone who wants me to read their memoir to say something important, unique, different...something.

  6. I do love a great memoir, but I'm still on the fence on this one. It does have a great title, though.


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