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My Misspent Youth: Essays Paperback – March 15, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Open City Books; First Edition edition (March 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890447269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890447267
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #488,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Essay lovers can take heart. There's a new voice in the fray, and it belongs to a talented young writer. In this collection of (largely previously published) on-target analyses of American culture, Daum offers the disapproval of youth, leavened with pithy humor and harsh self-appraisal . In each essay, she sustains interest with a good story and pricks the reader's conscience with observations that reverberate personally, whether about the secret desires of Christian women or the stunning ease of accumulating debt while existing unluxuriously in New York City. Publishing veterans will be amused and chagrined to see their profession skewered in "Publishing and Other Near-Death Experiences"; and for a hard take on one's responsibility for mourning, there is the book's best work, "Variation on Grief." Daum's decidedly agnostic outlook sometimes makes for easy moral outs, and time may render her phrasings cute. While her main premise that many Americans live "not actual lives but simulations of lives... via the trinkets on our shelves" leaves room for disagreement, on the whole, readers will enjoy an edgy read. (Mar. 15) Forecast: Daum's pieces have appeared in traditional magazines like the New Yorker, as well as in cutting-edge venues like Nerve, and have earned her a considerable reputation as a sharp Gen-X voice. Review attention and good word-of-mouth should earn this book brisk sales.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This eclectic collection of essays delves into the corners of contemporary life, ferreting out the eccentric as well as the ordinary. Readers can identify with Daum's disdain for carpeting or her difficulty living within her means on New York's Upper West Side while working at a low-paying publishing job. On a less familiar note is an essay exploring the lifestyle of a group in California who call their communal way of life "polyamory," a brand of free love reminiscent of the 1960s. Not shy about implicating herself, Daum plunges into such thorny issues as an Internet romance and her inability to mourn a friend's death, along with her irritation at his superficial, enabling parents. A regular contributor to National Public Radio, Daum writes essays and articles appearing in major publications including The New Yorker, Harper's, New York Times, GQ, Self, and Vogue. Her work demonstrates honesty and an ability to look perceptively at herself and contemporary life. Daum's is a provocative and refreshing new voice. Recommended for larger public libraries. Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
meghan daum is scarily perceptive, outrageously talented, and ridiculously funny. I read the essays in one afternoon and haven't stopped thinking about them since. Though other reviewers found her arrogant, i think they are mistaking her honesty for snobbery, and her obvious intelligence for disdain. Yes, she makes fun of other people (carpet owners, sci-fi geeks, and high school musicians in particular) but gets away with it because she allows us glimpses into her own carpet-owning, sci-fi-reading, oboe-playing geeky soul. If you think personal essays have to either be truncated memoirs or shrill polemics, read this book and enjoy the form at its finest.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Marcy L. Thompson VINE VOICE on March 21, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Meghan Daum is undoubtedly a skilled writer. She has a keen eye, when she uses it. She is also arrogant, a bit of a snob and very very young.
I've been enjoying her essays in various magazines for some time now, and I was interested to learn that there is a collection of her writing, so I bought the book. As I started to read, I discovered that the essays started to run together in my mind. I was occasinally stopped short by her arrogance. When I read one essay at a time, these things did not happen, and I could go back to enjoying the fluently written, nicely observed essays about not much of anything. On the other hand, when I read them in a group, the weaknesses were more evident and the effect more of a whine.
So, my advice is that if you like this kind of thing (smooth writing, essays making much of very little), you may well enjoy this book. I just urge you not to take the edge off by reading it all at once.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ms. Daum is very, very good. And hopefully living in Nebraska will help make her even better. There are times in this book she hits on so on the head it's scary; there are laugh-out-loud moments, so rare to find. But her irritating moments are SO offensive as to almost (not quite, but almost) negate the good. Ms. Daum is extraordinarily arrogant, and more than a bit of a hypocrite. Yes, she is self-depracating and "points the finger at herself" and all that other good-flap-copy crap. She is indeed...too obviously so. The self-finger-pointing tends to read as something she went back on the 2nd or 3rd draft and entered because she was worried she sounded too arrogant. Hmmm. Her essay on the polys was damn good, almost brilliant, until the last paragraph when her final conclusion was so hypocritical (jn the face of her previous essays) as to make me groan. Anyway, get the book; it's mostly good. But I think Ms. Daum will be much, much better after she's been around the block a few times.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on October 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
Having purchased this book based upon an Amazon rec, I spent the first chapter cursing Meghan Daum and Jeff Bezos. It was EXCRUTIATINGLY true of everything I know about young adult life in New York City, and I hated having it served up to me in such precise, laboriously correct fashion. However, I persisted, and was ultimately rewarded by much of what I read...finally succumbing altogether when I reached the "Music is My Bag" segment; as one bearing the viciously peculiar scars of an adolescent oboe experience, I laughed OUT LOUD during a morning rush-hour train ride, and forgave everything remotely unsatisfying that had come before. Anyone who has ever had the burden of Eccentricity as Excellence imposed by a parent, for whatever reason, will both cringe and rejoice at this INCREDIBLY detailed accounting of what it costs to be too smart and unique for the flute (or its functional equivalent--name the field). Congratulations, Meghan: You finally put down that heinous 'horn' and its attendant reed making, as did I, and never looked back. I fantasize that someday I'll have the privilege of recounting "The Horror of Interlochen (Michigan) All-State Orchestra 1979" to you over coffee...I thank you for giving voice to every over-achiever who's ever questioned the mission we were unwittingly assigned, and found the courage to defy the twin tyrannies of conformity AND its evil twin, The Subculture of Bagdom.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on March 27, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading just one essay by Meghan Daum when it first appeared in The New Yorker, coincidentally the title piece of MY MISSPENT YOUTH, I wanted more, more, more of her prose. So I was understandably thrilled when a recent web search turned up this first collection of her work and, having read it, I am even more thrilled. She is really, really good. She's so good, she's scary. Daum's pieces share in common what she calls a point, which someone else bent on stuffy superlatives might call an overarching theme. Either way, she's not imposing some pat formula on life but has pulled out a bona fide truth about the human condition in its many different circumstances, that we simultaneously operate in two worlds, one a concoction of dreams, prejudices and cultural conditioning, the other, reality. Each of her essays is a moment of reckoning, of understanding how the imagined world has tipped the real one, of having to bow to the real one. In unflinching prose that just sweeps along, she pursues truth as a player, occasionally as a witness. The quality of her work reminds me of what Carol Burnett said about having no choice but to become the star because she was a misfit in the chorus: Daum, incapable of following through on requests that she submit to puppy mill essaying on Gen-X preoccupations (she's about 31), has positioned herself in the territory of Joan Didion and our finest cultural commentators.
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More About the Author

Meghan Daum is the author, most recently, of the essay collection The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion. Her other books include the essay collection My Misspent Youth, the novel The Quality of Life Report, and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, a memoir. Since 2005, Meghan has been an opinion columnist for The Los Angeles Times, writing on political, cultural, and social affairs. She has contributed to public radio's Morning Edition, Marketplace, and This American Life, and has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, GQ, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in Los Angeles.

Learn more about Meghan at

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