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I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays Hardcover – April 16, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Prolific fiction writer Lipman also boasts a generous body of nonfiction work that examines multiple facets of one woman’s life, from the personal to the professional, from marriage and family to writing and teaching. Gathered from essays and columns previously published in outlets ranging from Good Housekeeping to the New York Times, and penned in her trademark tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and disarming, self-deprecating humor, these pieces tackle memories of her New England childhood and her long-standing marriage and foray into late-in-life parenting. Of particular poignancy are works that deal with the sudden death of her beloved husband and tenuous navigation of the unfamiliar worlds of widowhood and contemporary dating, topics that inspired her latest novel, The View from Penthouse B. Though the subjects and details may be exceedingly specific and personal, Lipman speaks as an Everywoman. Lipman’s revelatory essay collection may resonate most with the loyal readers of her novels, and fans of fellow journalist and novelist Anna Quindlen may also find much here to enjoy and reflect on. --Carol Haggas

Review

"Lipman's acuity as a social observer makes her voice seem to belong to a wise and funny friend." —The Boston Globe
 
"More addictive than that bag of peanut M&M's… [Lipman] is always in top form as an essayist…Her essays celebrate an uncommon virtue: common decency. Lipman is eloquent and loving." —The New York Times Book Review
 
"Endearingly personal…The essays are full of wit and charm, along with some trenchant observations." —The Seattle Times
 
"[Lipman's] good nature twinkles on virtually every page of I Can't Complain…Lipman is unfailingly funny, and comic flashes illuminate even her saddest essays...Lipman portrays our most painful emotions coexisting with the humor that makes them bearable." —The Washington Post
"Engaging…Good-natured confessions run throughout the pieces in I Can't Complain." —The Miami Herald

 "Funny, witty, gracious and knowing personal essays that make a reader want to have lunch with the author." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"The essays in I Can't Complain bring warmth and insight to topics ranging from soap operas to the death of [Lipman's] beloved husband." —Parade

"In each piece, no matter how brief, Lipman tackles the subject at hand with Dorothy Parker-esque wit and verve. The author's good-spirited openness and self-awareness shine through…A feast of bite-sized morsels of humor and wisdom." —Kirkus Reviews "As if readers are sitting down to sip a glass of wine with their best friend (if that best friend happened to be incredibly witty, intelligent, self-aware and encouraging-and also a bestselling author), this collection feels like the very best gabfest imaginable…Very highly recommended." —Book Reporter "Charming…Whether or not one is a Lipman fan before reading this collection, he or she most certainly will be by the time the final page is turned." —Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 054757620X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547576206
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elinor Lipman is the author of "Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus" (Beacon Press, 2012). She is the author of nine novels, including The Inn at Lake Devine, Then She Found Me, and, most recently, The Family Man.

Follow her on Twitter: @elinorlipman.

Photo Copyright Photographer Name: Michael Lionstar, 2012.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have read all of Lipman's novels and have loved them all. When I discovered she had a book of personal essays in the (publishing) works, I was thrilled. I'm in love with her writer's voice--insouciant, wise, discerning, beautifully humorous. And just as in her fiction, that voice is light, yet powerful in her essays about love (romantic and familial), writing (!), and widowhood.

As a narrator, you get a sense of who Lipman is; in these essays, you get more "facts" about her life--her late husband (who was always early), her mensch of a son, her family background, and her writing habits. They are harmonious with her fictional self--lovingly and wryly described. One of my favorite essays is her St. Patrick's Day Valentine to the Irish-Americans who shared (and dominated) her childhood neighborhood ("A Tip of the Hat to the Old Block")--Lipman makes the characters so vivid that I can see the blue-eyed Suzanne showing off her dotted Swiss dress, as well as the play of light in the room that Lipman doesn't describe. Thanks to the the written window Lipman provides, I am there, seeing and feeling.

I also adored the story of the bat-mitzvah girl with three sets of grandparents--like a number of the author's reflections, the essay reminds you of initial impressions and how they may or may not stay valid through time. Her writing about her late husband is exquisitely-wrought; it is never maudlin, and all the more poignant for that. There really was not one essay I didn't find of value, so I won't list every one of them here.

But even if you have never read Lipman's fiction, you should enjoy these essays if you are a writer (naming your characters and the use of food for characterization are just some of the tips you'll glean) or a thoughtful woman.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm always a little leery about reading a book of essays like this for fear it will sound too disconnected or egotistical, but this lovely book was neither. It had themes (writing, life, motherhood, marriage) that flowed well and offered something for everyone.

If you're a fan of Ms. Lipman, this book is a special treat. I've always felt like she's this author you love to read and also wouldn't mind having over for dinner because she'd be gracious and funny and would make everyone feel as if there was a light shined on them. These essays bring out Lipman's personality, and even when she's writing about serious subjects and sadness, the tone is light, smart, and witty.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Elinor Lipman, a favorite author to many of us has given us a book of very funny and unique life stories. She dedicated the book to her son, Benjamin, who she says, is now used to this attention. There are 31 chapters, humorous, poignant and true to life.
Elinor, after reading these personal stories, I feel she is my friend, writes stories That are so relatable. She is from my period of time, sometime between 1900 and 1950. I understand precisely when she talks about her neighborhood accepting her family, even though they were the only Jews in a conclave of Irish. That is how life was in New England, she from, Lowell, Mass. Everyone looked out for the other's kids, we were outdoors from dawn til dusk in the summer. We went everywhere, afraid of little. I found the first ten chapters the most relatable and funny. Her family, growing up with a father who thought of her as his favorite, or was it her sister? His love of Max Shulman, and Dobie Gillis. The friends, their families, her best friend's Bat Mitzvah, where her two dads, one mom, three sets of grandparents, two sets Jewish,and one Irish, all attended and had a fabulous time. Good Grudgekeeping, like most of us, Elinor remembers! Sex Ed, her son's introduction to the wonders of love, who told her after his dad went through the man/woman deal, that ' a man takes a seed out of his tush and a woman eats it'. The death of her mom and how she still thinks she should call her mom when anything intetesting happens.

The second eight chapters are about her writing. How she became a writer, what it means to her and what method she uses to name her characters. The third set of chapters are about love and coupling. She has some very funny stuff here. Anniversaries, separate beds and dating.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This collection of essays and columns the novelist Elinor Lipman has written for newspapers and magazines is a gem...warm, sad, funny, delightful, insightful and deeply personal--kinda, sorta like finding a new best friend. Here's a small sampling of some personal faves:

In her "Meet the Family" columns I learned that chicken soup benefits from having a fistful of dried split peas thrown in... and that I'm not the only woman on earth who doesn't eat condiments. (Lipman's mother didn't either.)

The "On Writing" articles reveal how Lipman deals with blurb requests, picks names for her characters, uses food as a narrative helpmate and how her first novel "Then She Found Me," went to Hollywood and took 19 years to become a movie.

Her "Coupling Columns" take issue with the old bromide "Never go to bed angry," and the challenges of being married to an overzealous foodie and clean freak...and wonders if marriages not preceded by a proposal last longer than those that were. Or as Lipman puts it "Here's to the guys not on bended knee, not holding little velvet boxes. Here's to things more durable than diamonds."

The "Since Then" columns look at life after widowhood. She watches the Masters by herself for the first time. When asked about dating, she thinks "Maybe, if that day comes, I'd be okay with a high school romance" or, as she later puts it, "a fine nomance." Meanwhile, she reconfigures the novel she'd been working on from a third-person story about a young woman living with strangers into a story of two middle-aged sisters, with one of them, a widow, as narrator. Can't wait for the email from Amazon letting me know that that book,The View from Penthouse B has shipped.
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I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays
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