I picked up this collection of advice columns after reading that the Public Theater had adapted it into a show that ran this past December. I love when theater comes from unexpected places, so I thought I’d give this a whirl despite the fact that this kind of obvious book is not really my jam. No matter. I dug it. This woman writes very well, and with such directness, such honesty, that it really inspired me to be more myself when writing. I love giving advice too, so it was interesting to hear her perspective.There is one excruciating letter from a man who lost his twenty-three year old son to a hit-and-run via drunk driver that I bawled on the subway.
She is also the author of Wild, a huge bestseller and a movie starting Reese Witherspoon, so her level of success is astroid level (unless astroids are the ones that shoot down the earth. First Son was just reciting the difference between a comet, a meteorite, and an astroid, and I cannot for the life of me recall the definitions but possibly none of the three would be an appropriate word of astronomical success if they are all stars that shoot down to the earth in terrific fashion). Strayed recently gave an interview about how much money she actually made from writing her first big novel sale and was explicit about how much the agent gets, the credit card gets, how the length of the payment schedule means you never get that moment of holding two giant bags of money in the air and shout “I’m going to Jamaica, b*tches!” or whatever is your catch phrase of glory. When I was a kid, I read the Choose Your Own Adventure series, where depending on your choices, you went to different pages in the book. I used to keep a book mark at every crossroads to read the other paths I could have taken. I could never accept that the one adventure was the only one open to me. So reading about Strayed’s path of unbridled success having obstacles made me feel that every path is full of struggle and I stopped worrying about the ones I haven’t taken.