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“Reading Scratched gave me the feeling of standing very close to a blazing fire. It is that brilliant, that intense, and one of the finest explorations I know of what it means to be a woman and an artist.”—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend and Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction In this bold and brilliant memoir, the acclaimed author of the novel Museum Pieces an “Reading Scratched gave me the feeling of standing very close to a blazing fire. It is that brilliant, that intense, and one of the finest explorations I know of what it means to be a woman and an artist.”—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend and Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction In this bold and brilliant memoir, the acclaimed author of the novel Museum Pieces and the collection Mendocino Fire explores the ferocious desire for perfection which has shaped her writing life as well as her rich, dramatic, and constantly surprising personal life. In the decade between age twenty-seven and thirty-seven, Elizabeth Tallent published five literary books with Knopf, her short stories appeared in The New Yorker, and she secured a coveted teaching job at Stanford University. But this extraordinary start to her career was followed by twenty-two years of silence. She wrote —or rather published— nothing at all. Why? Scratched is the remarkable response to that question. Elizabeth’s story begins in a hospital in mid-1950s suburban Washington, D.C., when her mother refuses to hold her newborn daughter, shocking behavior that baffles the nurses. Imagining her mother’s perfectionist ideal at this critical moment, Elizabeth moves back and forth in time, juxtaposing moments in the past with the present in this innovative and spellbinding narrative. She traces her journey from her early years in which she perceived herself as “the child whose flaws let disaster into an otherwise perfect family,” to her adulthood, when perfectionism came to affect everything. As she toggles between teaching at Stanford in Palo Alto and the Mendocino coast where she lives, raises her son Gabriel, and pursues an important psychoanalysis, Elizabeth grapples with the ferocious desire for perfection which has shaped her personal life and writing life. Eventually, she finds love and acceptance in the most unlikely place, and finally accepts an “as is” relationship with herself and others. Her final triumph is the writing of this extraordinary memoir, filled with wit, humor, and heart—a brave book that repeatedly searches for the emotional truth beneath the conventional surface of existence.


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“Reading Scratched gave me the feeling of standing very close to a blazing fire. It is that brilliant, that intense, and one of the finest explorations I know of what it means to be a woman and an artist.”—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend and Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction In this bold and brilliant memoir, the acclaimed author of the novel Museum Pieces an “Reading Scratched gave me the feeling of standing very close to a blazing fire. It is that brilliant, that intense, and one of the finest explorations I know of what it means to be a woman and an artist.”—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend and Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction In this bold and brilliant memoir, the acclaimed author of the novel Museum Pieces and the collection Mendocino Fire explores the ferocious desire for perfection which has shaped her writing life as well as her rich, dramatic, and constantly surprising personal life. In the decade between age twenty-seven and thirty-seven, Elizabeth Tallent published five literary books with Knopf, her short stories appeared in The New Yorker, and she secured a coveted teaching job at Stanford University. But this extraordinary start to her career was followed by twenty-two years of silence. She wrote —or rather published— nothing at all. Why? Scratched is the remarkable response to that question. Elizabeth’s story begins in a hospital in mid-1950s suburban Washington, D.C., when her mother refuses to hold her newborn daughter, shocking behavior that baffles the nurses. Imagining her mother’s perfectionist ideal at this critical moment, Elizabeth moves back and forth in time, juxtaposing moments in the past with the present in this innovative and spellbinding narrative. She traces her journey from her early years in which she perceived herself as “the child whose flaws let disaster into an otherwise perfect family,” to her adulthood, when perfectionism came to affect everything. As she toggles between teaching at Stanford in Palo Alto and the Mendocino coast where she lives, raises her son Gabriel, and pursues an important psychoanalysis, Elizabeth grapples with the ferocious desire for perfection which has shaped her personal life and writing life. Eventually, she finds love and acceptance in the most unlikely place, and finally accepts an “as is” relationship with herself and others. Her final triumph is the writing of this extraordinary memoir, filled with wit, humor, and heart—a brave book that repeatedly searches for the emotional truth beneath the conventional surface of existence.

30 review for Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth George

    I hate the star system. I've chosen two stars because they indicate that the book was "okay". That's the description I would use for this memoir. It doesn't seem right for me to call it "self-indulgent", especially since it's a memoir so what else could it be? But there are memoirs that are stories of survival, memoirs that are celebrations of family, memoirs that are revelations of past incidents that carved one's future, etc. In fact, there are probably styles of memoirs for every different so I hate the star system. I've chosen two stars because they indicate that the book was "okay". That's the description I would use for this memoir. It doesn't seem right for me to call it "self-indulgent", especially since it's a memoir so what else could it be? But there are memoirs that are stories of survival, memoirs that are celebrations of family, memoirs that are revelations of past incidents that carved one's future, etc. In fact, there are probably styles of memoirs for every different sort of person out there. This one just didn't appeal to me. I found the part that dealt with her mother's reaction to motherhood fascinating. I found her lengthy meditations on her own life...lengthy. People struggle with many and varied issues. Perhaps for me it comes down to this: Reading about someone's struggle with perfectionism in a period of time when the world is falling apart just didn't seem like a critical activity I wanted to engage in. That's the best I can do. If you're issue is perfectionism, you might like this. My issue is also perfectionism and I didn't.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    This was a difficult read but I'm very glad I read it. Perfectionism is toxic and Elizabeth Tallent does an exceptional job in sharing the difficulties it has caused in her life in addition to her writing. Much of this memoir is exquisitely written, although there are some sections where I found myself lost in very long, complex sentences and had to read a section over several times to get my bearings. I learned quite a bit about myself from reading this and for that I'm grateful. 4 1/2 rounding This was a difficult read but I'm very glad I read it. Perfectionism is toxic and Elizabeth Tallent does an exceptional job in sharing the difficulties it has caused in her life in addition to her writing. Much of this memoir is exquisitely written, although there are some sections where I found myself lost in very long, complex sentences and had to read a section over several times to get my bearings. I learned quite a bit about myself from reading this and for that I'm grateful. 4 1/2 rounding up to 5 stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Huyen Chip

    Professor Tallent was one of my favorite writing professors. It was great reading her memoir and understanding where she came from.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    To be honest, I did not want to read this book and I did not want to write this review. However ... it was the last book I had to read while our library was closed (due to Covid 19). I did start a few times before I buckled down and read the whole book. In Scratched, Elizabeth Tallent has exposed herself with such intimacy and candour it is difficult to read more than a few pages at a time. There is complexity in the autobiography that makes for demanding reading. Occasionally, I found myself ask To be honest, I did not want to read this book and I did not want to write this review. However ... it was the last book I had to read while our library was closed (due to Covid 19). I did start a few times before I buckled down and read the whole book. In Scratched, Elizabeth Tallent has exposed herself with such intimacy and candour it is difficult to read more than a few pages at a time. There is complexity in the autobiography that makes for demanding reading. Occasionally, I found myself asking, 'who was she married to then?' or, 'when did her mother allow her back into the family?' Things like that. Yes, her story advances but in a turned way - linear it is not! So, my usual (bad) habit of reading a book backwards didn't work at all. In the event, I had a clear view of Elizabeth Tallent: her physical appearance, her complete desire for perfectionism - to the detriment of her happiness for much of her life, and that she sees as 'home'. Her personal narrative of depression made me weep. Her experience of psychoanalysis, and how she bares her soul right there. I discover, on finishing the book, that, if I could write like her I would write a lot more than I do.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Megan Bell

    After an incredibly promising start, publishing 5 critically acclaimed books and nabbing a prestigious professorship at Stanford, Elizabeth Tallent published nothing for 22 years. This memoir is her reckoning with the perfectionism that has both made her and plagued her. What results is a brilliant and enriching examination of the facets and faces of perfectionism through a woman’s life from her very birth to present day.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ammara

    This is a deep dive into the author’s life and struggles with perfectionism, which is more destructive than many realize. The book is a little difficult to read but there are some excellent insights into the author’s issues that kept her from completing and publishing for two decades. Some of the issues hit a little too close to home, but I’m glad I gave this a shot.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Claudia Greening

    First book in a long time that I had to go back and reread sentence after sentence—making sure I understood the structure, where the verb was hiding. It is beautiful, a triumph. A meditation on mental illness. A poem dedicated to the fleeting details of identity.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Scarpa

    In a word: perfect.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cor T

    It feels mean to criticize an author who writes to explain why she couldn’t write a book for 22 years due to perfectionism. Part I had such a meandering beginning that I couldn’t get my bearings until this sentence: The summer my mother told me the story of how she had not been willing to take me I was nineteen. We learn how the author’s in utero scratches marked her as imperfect and that her mother refused to hold her at the hospital as a newborn. Later we get more on this key incident: While It feels mean to criticize an author who writes to explain why she couldn’t write a book for 22 years due to perfectionism. Part I had such a meandering beginning that I couldn’t get my bearings until this sentence: The summer my mother told me the story of how she had not been willing to take me I was nineteen. We learn how the author’s in utero scratches marked her as imperfect and that her mother refused to hold her at the hospital as a newborn. Later we get more on this key incident: While she [her mother] was alive there was never a moment when I could have asked why she told the story to me and what if anything she hoped would come of having told it. Even though it was never discussed between mother and daughter, it's the origin story at the center of the book. Part II has some of the best writing as Tallent describes 1950s suburban America as an incubator for replication, imitation, and suppression of individualism: The daylight absence of the men, the fathers, imbued the suburb with the suspense of desertion. Every blade of grass in every lawn was waiting. Every wife was waiting, every dog with pricked ears was waiting, and each blade of grass, each wife, each dog and child, whatever else they did, held still. This part also has a section on perfectionism as a trait that again, I thought could have gone earlier (a theme for this review): When other afflictions overwrite reality with fantasy—alcoholism, or addictions to gambling or sex—their self-destructiveness is bleakly acknowledged, but perfectionism’s rep as ambition on steroids remains glossy: it can present not as delusion, but as an advantageous form of sanity. ... A supposedly surefire means of pleasing a job interviewer is to answer What is your biggest flaw? with I’m a perfectionist. Part III has Tallent emerging as a writer and parent, describing her path through therapy, marriages and jobs, to her current career as a writing teacher where she’s “learned to extend a welcome to mishaps, failures, rifts, smudges, to effortfulness in general, to what I’d call, in talking with my students, process, is to conceal a thousand, ten thousand, eruptions of repudiation.” And ultimately, she's learned to “try to love this incarnation.” Ironically, my response to this book was mostly organizational: why is it ordered in such a non-linear fashion? - which maybe reveals my perfectionist streak. :-)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Roberts

    Memoir as make it stop, audacious in conceit, the dizzying, dragging minutia, of a life lived grasping for metaphors.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    ***Goodreads Giveaway Win*** Now I know what people mean when they say a book seems MFA workshopped. This book was MFA workshopped within an inch of its life. I could tell the writer put in a ton of effort to each sentence; to each word but somewhere she the lost the story. What she arrived at was words that sounded pretty went strung together but made zero sense to the reader.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    I find it hard to review memoirs because it feels as though I'm judging someone's life and life choices. That's doubly the case here because this is really the story of how Tallent struggled and continues to struggle with perfectionism, which is more destructive than many realize. Is she blaming her issues on her mother, who refused to hold her immediately after her birth because of a small scratch? Was she imprinted as an infant? Perfectionism took a huge toll on Tallent, who was unable to comp I find it hard to review memoirs because it feels as though I'm judging someone's life and life choices. That's doubly the case here because this is really the story of how Tallent struggled and continues to struggle with perfectionism, which is more destructive than many realize. Is she blaming her issues on her mother, who refused to hold her immediately after her birth because of a small scratch? Was she imprinted as an infant? Perfectionism took a huge toll on Tallent, who was unable to complete and publish anything for 22 years. This is at times a challenge to read but she offers interesting insight into her issues. Thanks to edelweiss for the ARC. For Tallent fans who have been waiting a long time for new work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    There's some irony in the fact that I feel myself unable to capture the brilliance of Elizabeth Tallent's Scratched. So I recommend that you read the New York Times review (link at the bottom) which actually does capture it perfectly, and I will go on to describe it imperfectly instead. I always feel that if a book does not give you want you wanted or expected at all, but manages to give you something much better because of it, it must be a very good book. Scratched definitely belongs in this cat There's some irony in the fact that I feel myself unable to capture the brilliance of Elizabeth Tallent's Scratched. So I recommend that you read the New York Times review (link at the bottom) which actually does capture it perfectly, and I will go on to describe it imperfectly instead. I always feel that if a book does not give you want you wanted or expected at all, but manages to give you something much better because of it, it must be a very good book. Scratched definitely belongs in this category. Tallent (insert what's-in-a-name joke here) does not really discuss her twenty-two-year absence from the literary scene in that much detail. Obviously, it was her perfectionism, but she does not really engage in any specifics about this literary lacuna. What she gives us instead are brilliant, bright flashes of writing: scenes, atmospheres, people, and notions that have burrowed deeply into my brain and have become as vivid as shots from a movie. I like her choice of not going with a clearly structured, chronological narrative, and the huge missing links between settings. These choices suit her themes and they make the descriptions (she is such a keen observer) stand out all the more clearly. It's a slippery memoir which is play-acting, cloaking itself in novelistic descriptions, leaving you a bit dazed in the most delightful way. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/25/bo...)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I can't decide how I feel about this book. The premise, "a memoir of perfectionism," was intriguing (obviously – I read it), but I gained little insight into that particular affliction. I kept wanting the book to revolve around that central theme, but instead, it kept spooling out into a pretty straightforward life story, with a series of questionable choices. Often those choices were not explained as a consequence of her perfectionism, and I kept looking for those lines drawing me back to the b I can't decide how I feel about this book. The premise, "a memoir of perfectionism," was intriguing (obviously – I read it), but I gained little insight into that particular affliction. I kept wanting the book to revolve around that central theme, but instead, it kept spooling out into a pretty straightforward life story, with a series of questionable choices. Often those choices were not explained as a consequence of her perfectionism, and I kept looking for those lines drawing me back to the book's stated theme. The chronology of the writer's life has so many gaps, I kept thinking I'd accidentally pressed "shuffle" on my audiobook. At the end of one chapter, she's furtively writing stories on an old typewriter in the back of the bookstore where she works, and in the next, she's taking the job as director of Stanford's writing program. Given the impetus of this book was her 20-year absence from writing and publishing, I wanted to know more about the gaps in the story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I felt in tune with the author's pain when the other people wouldn't act in exactly the right way. Then again, it could also be noted that my pleasure with this volume may also stem from my appreciation of the examination of human psychology. Or, or, or... could it also be that Asperger's stuff? I don't think they are connected, although she does describe stroking the couch's velvet towards the end, and I am familiar with how autistic/Aspergerians have particular sensitivities with touch... I nearl I felt in tune with the author's pain when the other people wouldn't act in exactly the right way. Then again, it could also be noted that my pleasure with this volume may also stem from my appreciation of the examination of human psychology. Or, or, or... could it also be that Asperger's stuff? I don't think they are connected, although she does describe stroking the couch's velvet towards the end, and I am familiar with how autistic/Aspergerians have particular sensitivities with touch... I nearly balked away from this book due to her inscribing at the end To the Lighthouse which I absolutely hated with a fiery passion and totally wouldn't have minded burning if no one saw that I was book-burning. I'm glad I didn't, though. It was worth the brief discomfort.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Honor

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I don’t know. A very good writer, who by her admission of the perfectionism that discouraged her to interrupt her writing for 20 years, also helps identify just what makes her writing so good: precision, sharp observation, exhaustiveness. But while her life is interesting - wild and bohemian, poorly planned, ultimately secured by her own writerly achievements and ability to find safe harbor with sympathetic strangers - it at times becomes tedious. Some of the more interior, analytic passages mad I don’t know. A very good writer, who by her admission of the perfectionism that discouraged her to interrupt her writing for 20 years, also helps identify just what makes her writing so good: precision, sharp observation, exhaustiveness. But while her life is interesting - wild and bohemian, poorly planned, ultimately secured by her own writerly achievements and ability to find safe harbor with sympathetic strangers - it at times becomes tedious. Some of the more interior, analytic passages made me realize that reading about someone’s therapy experiences is a bit like listening to someone talk about their child’s nap schedule or their day of fishing out on the lake - it’s really only interesting if you also have a child who can’t sleep or have planned a day of fishing on that same lake. I admire so much about her writing and her ability to conjure a scene, a place, a time, a state of mind etc but she often refused to provide satisfying closure after building to the climax. I feel like if you’re going to tell your story, you need to tell us about the loose ends. What happened with her first husband, a man I could only admire and sympathize with by the end? What happened with her second husband, her beloved therapist who she describes naked (including the veins of his penis) but then ditches without much explanation? And how exactly did she end up marrying the woman from the antiques store after all that? We get only vignettes of shopkeeper charm in that prelude. AND. . .WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED IN THE REST STOP PHONE BOOTH? Ultimately, the fact that she dropped the phone booth story completely - the most exciting, mystifying and scary anecdote in the whole book - just at the height of its precisely wrought tension felt perverse, like she was mercilessly manipulating the reader with her writerly wiles. I wonder why she did this. It wasn’t the only example of her reader-abandonment, but it was the most heinous. It was as if abandoning the story was her way of ditching the reader before we could leave her. She does admit to having abandonment issues, after all. . .

  17. 4 out of 5

    Traci

    Painful as an exorcism.

  18. 5 out of 5

    B Jones

    I've read Elizabeth Tallent's previous short story collection Mendocino Fire and enjoyed it. I had found about this one in advance and pre-ordered it. This is a different and challenging approach to the memoir format, jumping around in chronology and through time. The first part is interesting, written in a somewhat experimental style about the night of the author's birth from her mother's perspective, how she couldn't hold her newborn baby for 3 days, the baby "scratched" and imperfect looking I've read Elizabeth Tallent's previous short story collection Mendocino Fire and enjoyed it. I had found about this one in advance and pre-ordered it. This is a different and challenging approach to the memoir format, jumping around in chronology and through time. The first part is interesting, written in a somewhat experimental style about the night of the author's birth from her mother's perspective, how she couldn't hold her newborn baby for 3 days, the baby "scratched" and imperfect looking fresh from the womb instilling a sort of revulsion in the mother. Every detail is extracted and excruciated over with long, dense dense sentences that are sometimes hard to grasp. I suppose you could see how the author would pore over the details of this first portion of the memoir, writing and rewriting until she feels that it is constructed just right. After this portion of the book, we jump into more conventional, autobiographical territory, and I was more engaged here. I loved the vignettes of childhood and family life and a young romance and young adulthood. Really enjoyed the poetry of the language and writing throughout. The bits of the book that are steeped in nostalgia ring true and I could've read a lot more of that stuff. I just had one burning question throughout the memoir. It is supposedly a memoir of perfectionism and there is lots of mention of it in the book and how the author has it, but the book never presented many examples of her practicing it in her life. The book dust jacket flap states that Tallent didn't publish any writing for 22 years and it was due to this perfectionism, but we don't get to see this in the memoir. I would like to have seen how it affected the writing process. Did she attempt stories during this time? Was she throwing away page after page of work that she couldn't quite get right? Or was she paralyzed to even start? How did her perfectionism affect her earlier works and life? There also didn't seem to be any evidence presented in her day to day past life. She has a couple compulsive behaviors she shares, but that's it...So I was curious as to why this was presented as a focus of the memoir. It seemed to me that the memoir was more of a memoir about introspection, and how too much can hamper you; life and its details observed too much, a desire to capture and preserve them in language and getting stuck in your own head and thoughts. But what excellent language she comes up with to capture these details, and I was left wanting more, so that's why I give it 4 stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Polly

    Reminiscent of Nelson’s Argonauts narrative with jumbled time line snippets but mostly chronological, the no quotation dialogue in italics. I guess that’s a contemporary immediacy. Brilliance here, and imperfections, but Tallant finally makes peace with being imperfect, letting her guard down , being vulnerable, which she is, painfully so, but only in accepting her imperfections is she finally safe from the world and her self. She stops scratching herself to the bone in the end. Well, I hope. Ne Reminiscent of Nelson’s Argonauts narrative with jumbled time line snippets but mostly chronological, the no quotation dialogue in italics. I guess that’s a contemporary immediacy. Brilliance here, and imperfections, but Tallant finally makes peace with being imperfect, letting her guard down , being vulnerable, which she is, painfully so, but only in accepting her imperfections is she finally safe from the world and her self. She stops scratching herself to the bone in the end. Well, I hope. Near the beginning she writes, “How much honesty is possible about a child if one is no longer that child? Does having once been her make me an authority? Can I understand her better than I can my cat? How radically would what that child would say about her existence differ from what I have said? As I write this I feel the kind of sadness known as piercing because it feels like admitting uncertainty in regard to her experience is to lose her. In contrast, to claim absolute certainty in regard to the child’s experience feels like having her. (Not being her. Having.) But I know very well that no person whose experience can be narrated with absolute certainty exists or ever did. The paradox is that to write about her with the upmost honesty I am capable of feels continually like loss; it’s only the loss of her that convinces me I ever was her.“ I found Tallant’s existential view of herself spot on in that what she describes resonates with my own experience of remembering childhood, what it was like to be that person and was that person me? I think we all marvel at that. Well, I do.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    3.5 stars for gorgeous, gorgeous writing, but it was often just too much for me: like a box of really rich, decadent truffles when a caramel nut chew would have been a nice change of pace occasionally. "Still, this offers some ideas about memoir put in a new way, for instance: How much honesty is possible about a child if one is no longer that child? Does having once been her make me an authority? Can I understand her better than I can my cat? How radically would what that child would say about h 3.5 stars for gorgeous, gorgeous writing, but it was often just too much for me: like a box of really rich, decadent truffles when a caramel nut chew would have been a nice change of pace occasionally. "Still, this offers some ideas about memoir put in a new way, for instance: How much honesty is possible about a child if one is no longer that child? Does having once been her make me an authority? Can I understand her better than I can my cat? How radically would what that child would say about her existence differ from what I have said? As I write this I feel the kind of sadness known as piercing because it feels like admitting uncertainty in regard to her experience is to lose her. In contrast, to claim absolute certainty in regard to the child’s experience feels like having her. ( Not being her. Having.) But I know very well that no person whose experience can be narrated with absolute certainty exists, or ever did. The paradox is that to write about her with the utmost honesty I’m capable of feels continually like loss; it’s only the loss of her that convinces me I ever was her.” And then also I just loved this brief scene: “... the morning following the heart surgery awaiting her five years down the line, the surgeon would enter the waiting room to report She’s conscious and asking for lipstick and then stand waiting for the laugh he’d anticipated as her daughters began scrambling through their purses, comparing their uncapped shades, saying Ugh, no and She won’t think that’s red enough and In the ballpark?”

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Glenn Dixon

    I read this in several short bursts over an extended period of time, which isn’t the best way to deal with writing that is often so interior and abstract. What sticks with me is how the trenchancy of Tallent’s observations of perfectionism contrasts with the evasiveness and circuitousness of her prose. Her book often seems only incidentally about its purported topic, being more an examination of her warring, worried psyche and how it relates to the course of her life. But even with her elision o I read this in several short bursts over an extended period of time, which isn’t the best way to deal with writing that is often so interior and abstract. What sticks with me is how the trenchancy of Tallent’s observations of perfectionism contrasts with the evasiveness and circuitousness of her prose. Her book often seems only incidentally about its purported topic, being more an examination of her warring, worried psyche and how it relates to the course of her life. But even with her elision of what a more straightforward and conventional writer would consider major life events, not to mention her love of sentences that run on at the middle, she doesn’t ramble. Rather she conveys, in a style both fluid and fragmentary, that what happens to you and how it lives in your mind are often terribly different things—something a perfectionist knows all too well.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Charlene Dean

    Truly on the fence with this book. There were parts that were sublimely written and clearly communicated to the reader. They were a joy to read and made sense to those of us who have their own perfectionist tendencies. Other parts, however, were confusing. Marriages, divorces, a child, all seemed to run into each other without any sort of delineation. At times, the reader is left to trudge through a maze of twists and turns with no context in which to place them. This is not an easy read and mos Truly on the fence with this book. There were parts that were sublimely written and clearly communicated to the reader. They were a joy to read and made sense to those of us who have their own perfectionist tendencies. Other parts, however, were confusing. Marriages, divorces, a child, all seemed to run into each other without any sort of delineation. At times, the reader is left to trudge through a maze of twists and turns with no context in which to place them. This is not an easy read and most of use will not take the time to ferret out those small nuggets that make reading it worthwhile.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Livingston

    The author had a rough start in life, her mother didn't want to hold or feed her because she wasn't initially perfect - her tiny but long fingernails had scratched her beautiful skin. She was eventually "accepted" but always considered lacking in a home that stressed perfectionism. Nature and nature a crippling combination, never good enough from any perspective. This narrative is ala stream of consciousness and jumps forward and backward in time, which I have always found a bit disconcerting (m The author had a rough start in life, her mother didn't want to hold or feed her because she wasn't initially perfect - her tiny but long fingernails had scratched her beautiful skin. She was eventually "accepted" but always considered lacking in a home that stressed perfectionism. Nature and nature a crippling combination, never good enough from any perspective. This narrative is ala stream of consciousness and jumps forward and backward in time, which I have always found a bit disconcerting (my problem not the author's). Interesting but sad

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Tallent's long, dense sentence structure is the perfect format for conveying her torment. Pain oozes off the pages and, as a writer, I could certainly relate to the fear of just getting started. Allow ourselves to be wrong! Make mistakes! Revise, revise, revise. Ugh. While this memoir is painfully honest and beautifully raw, I chose a not-great time to read it and couldn't finish. Tallent's long, dense sentence structure is the perfect format for conveying her torment. Pain oozes off the pages and, as a writer, I could certainly relate to the fear of just getting started. Allow ourselves to be wrong! Make mistakes! Revise, revise, revise. Ugh. While this memoir is painfully honest and beautifully raw, I chose a not-great time to read it and couldn't finish.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This book took me a while to connect with the flow of it, but once I did I was all in. Elizabeth's language is beautiful, and challenging, in a good way, like when you crest the hill to take in the gorgeous view and feel rewarded for having done so. I am a fan of her earlier work and was anticipating the release of this book. I smile with satisfaction at having read it. This book took me a while to connect with the flow of it, but once I did I was all in. Elizabeth's language is beautiful, and challenging, in a good way, like when you crest the hill to take in the gorgeous view and feel rewarded for having done so. I am a fan of her earlier work and was anticipating the release of this book. I smile with satisfaction at having read it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ted Fox

    Trying to capture perfectionism on the page isn’t easy—and frankly, neither is it particularly easy to read. But this book is a beautiful accomplishment because it does just that. Sure to be one I’ll remember for a long time.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Becki

    A hard, incredible read. I found myself re-reading almost every page, desperately trying to keep up with Tallent's whirling mind. It's not a light, casual read, but it's achingly well-written and honest and real. A hard, incredible read. I found myself re-reading almost every page, desperately trying to keep up with Tallent's whirling mind. It's not a light, casual read, but it's achingly well-written and honest and real.

  28. 5 out of 5

    tara

    it’s what i deserve

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    An interesting topic for a memoir, although I found the writing style over-embellished for my tastes.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marcia

    Super fast read! Enjoyed every word

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