book review: So Sad Today by Melissa Broder

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SO SAD TODAY by Melissa Broder
★★★★☆
Grand Central Publishing, 2016

 

As she proved in her invigorating novel The Pisces, Melissa Broder is nothing if not candid. Her essay collection So Sad Today makes an interesting companion read, especially due to a main criticism you’ll often hear of The Pisces: that Lucy (the main character) isn’t ‘likable’ enough. I hadn’t known much about Melissa Broder’s personal life before reading So Sad Today, but I understandably came away from it with the strong impression that Broder modeled Lucy after herself; in which case, can we extend the same complaint to this book, and how much is likability tied to worth? Broder doesn’t spare herself in these essays: she can be selfish, hypocritical, vain, needy, and emotionally distant, but I don’t think she, or anyone, should have to sanitize themselves in an essay collection that focuses on the tension between being authentic to yourself and being accepted by others.

As for the writing style itself, the essays that erred on the side of conversational were consistently my least favorites (I have never enjoyed reading other people’s text message exchanges and I wasn’t about to start here). But the more literary essays I thought were incisive and piercing; make no mistake, this isn’t a scholarly, academic exploration of the many many themes that she introduces – loneliness, sex, mental illness, addiction – but instead it’s a fiercely personal collection that will probably succeed in striking a chord with most readers at one point or another, despite the fact that the details of Broder’s life may be difficult to relate to. For me it was the essay on depression and anxiety that hit the hardest, with lines like this particularly resonating: “For someone with anxiety, dramatic situations are, in a way, more comfortable than the mundane. In dramatic situations the world rises to meet your anxiety. When there are no dramatic situations available, you turn the mundane into the dramatic.”

Ultimately if you don’t get on with crude, vulgar writing, you won’t get on with this, though I wouldn’t suggest that it’s only crude for the sake of being crude. In both her novel and nonfiction, Broder excels at exploring the uglier sides of human behavior and examining the underlying neuroses and insecurities that propel us to act in unsavory ways. But I will say, if you have emetophobia, please for the love of god be smarter than I was and skip the essay about her vomit fetish.


You can pick up a copy of So Sad Today here on Book Depository.

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26 thoughts on “book review: So Sad Today by Melissa Broder

  1. I was SO IN, and then I read ‘vomit fetish’ – two words that should never be seen together 😂 Still, this sounds excellent, and that passage you shared is such a lightbulb moment. Definitely want to check this out at some point!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting! I’m just reading The Pisces – to be honest, I’m not loving it, but there are some incredibly insightful bits, and it isn’t crude or disgusting in the way I expected.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s totally fair – it’s definitely not for everyone. I’m glad you gave it a shot though, and I’m looking forward to hearing your final assessment! And I agree, I think the ‘grossness’ is really over-exaggerated in a lot of reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Since writing this comment I’ve read the last 70 pages of The Pisces and I think my overall impression is better than I expected – I really liked the ending 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • The ending was crazy good! I’d really enjoyed it up until then (I’d just visited LA and even went to that bookstore/crystal store that Lucy goes to at one point so I was reveling in that stupidly bougie atmosphere) but it really stuck the landing and tied the whole thing together in a way that was so satisfying.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok, so now I remember why I decided I didn’t want to read this after reading others’ reviews a while back. Thank you for what it took to trigger my memory (“vomit fetish”.) I’m really interested in what she writes about depression and anxiety, though, that sounds very worthwhile. I love the quote you shared.

    Also: “I have never enjoyed reading other people’s text message exchanges and I wasn’t about to start here” SAME! I read a book recently and really liked it but was so put off by pages of instant messages (maybe some were also texts) that barely contributed anything meaningful and felt like such wasted space from a great writer. Why do they do that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • God I WISH I had been warned about the vomit fetish – I had a super traumatic experience with vomiting when I was younger and have been severely fucked up about it ever since. Thankfully it’s not a super long essay though and weirdly enough there are some good insights in that one about what it takes to share something super private about yourself with your partner, but… it wasn’t my favorite to say the very least. But yes, the collection on the whole is so worth checking out! And it’s super short, only around 200 pages I think. So it’s a really quick read but I got a lot out of it.

      Oh god yes I HATE THAT. I don’t understand it either! Also isn’t it funny how ‘text speak’ in books is always like ‘HOW R U WUT R U DOING THIS WKEND x rachel’ like NO ONE TEXTS LIKE THAT this isn’t 2004!!!!! But even when it’s written relatively normally it just… doesn’t add anything, ever??

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  4. I hadn’t realized Broder ran the So Sad Today column/account until after reading reviews for the Pisces, but it makes perfect sense. Really like the way she writes about loneliness and relationships, thanks for the introduction to this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t realized either until after I read The Pisces! If you enjoy the Twitter account I think you’ll definitely love this, it’s funny and entertaining but there are so many great insights.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved The Pisces, and Broder’s writing style really reminds me of Ottessa Moshfegh, in a good way. Her essay on loneliness and anxiety sounds very interesting and that quote truly resonated with me, too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this collection!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up! Which I’d highly recommend doing especially as it’s such a quick read. I totally agree about the Moshfegh comparison – I love the way both of them write about modern relationships and isolation.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Okay, so I was reading your review like “oh, this sounds interesting, I don’t mind it being a bit vulgar, and really don’t mind unlikeable main characters, wow, this sounds great… vomit fetish WHAT”

    Great review, Rachel! So glad you reviewed this, definitely helped me make up my mind. Will add it to my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

    • As someone with a super severe phobia of vomiting I couldn’t in good conscience not mention that! But I hope it doesn’t turn people off too much because otherwise this was a really brilliant collection.

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  7. Great review! I’ve been curious about this one ever since reading The Pisces, but this was the review I needed to convince me to add it to my TBR. Excluding the vomit fetish bit. But as I’m already planning to pick up some nonfiction this summer, I think I’ll start looking for a copy! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just want Melissa Broder to publish a book a year from now on. I really would like to read something new by her. I love her.

    I do not have much else to say except that I am so with you on thinking that Lucy is at least in parts modelled on Broder and that this says interesting things about the character and how it has been reviewed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same! I really hope she writes another novel. I really enjoy her nonfiction but there was something so magical about The Pisces, even putting the merman aside. That’s the kind of thing I really want to read again.

      And yes, I really want all the ‘not likable enough’ Pisces haters to read this book and then have to come back to that discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

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