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Dear Mr. You Paperback – June 14, 2016
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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An Amazon Best Book of November 2015: More revealing than most memoirs, more satisfying than a diary, Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You is comprised of letters addressed to the men, both fictional and real, in her life. The letters, directed at the ‘you’ are unabated marvels of experience – at times gritty and unpolished, snappy and sad, romantic and heart pounding. There are the letters addressed to her daughter’s future boyfriend that release the snarl of a mother’s love; a raw apology to a cab driver who was the recipient of her rage; her mentor on the cusp of dying from AIDS with “that voice I could have poured on pancakes”; the beloved priest of her childhood answers the questions of her children; the lover who said “you would love me until you were ashes.” These moments, congested by the form of a letter, take on a level of unapologetic and unfettered intimacy that is intoxicating to read. Mary-Louise Parker is not just an award winning actress. She is a gutsy, bewitching writer whose stories will make you swoon, induce bawdy laughter, and puncture your deepest emotions. – Al Woodworth
Guest Review by Andrew Solomon
Photograph by Annie Leibovitz
Photograph by Tina Turnbow
“Dear Mr. You” comes as a revelation – actually, one revelation after another. Mary-Louise Parker’s book of memoiristic letters to some of the men in her life reads like a collection of first-rate short stories, varied in mood and tone but united by a perspective comprising gratitude, forgiveness, courage, and humor. Parker lives intensely and sees acutely; she has a warrior’s determination and a poet’s insight. I found myself reading this mesmerizing album of portraits like poetry, in fact: only a few letters at a sitting, the better to savor their resonances.
Parker recounts transforming episodes with some of her male heroes, among them a movement teacher, her acting mentor, the family priest (“who believed in God and still liked him”), the no-nonsense accountant who taught her how money works, the beekeeper next-door, and a former child soldier from Uganda. She depicts love affairs in all their ambivalence and fluctuating passions, and commemorates her most awful romantic relationships in an epistle to Cerberus, the mythical three-headed dog at the maw of Hell. She speculates about the hard-drinking Grandpa she never knew, and relives the relinquishment of her father’s body after his death. He was a three-war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who punched holes in the wall, and she misses him too profoundly to convey: “It would be like blue trying to describe the ocean.”
Here is the worst imaginable encounter between a pregnant woman and a New York City cabdriver with no idea where he’s going, here, a wishful meditation for a newborn baby boy. Here, even a note of apology to NASA “for repeatedly stating that you were a massive misuse of tax dollars and basically an oversized playground for those who like to wear antigravity suits.” She then admits (as men so rarely do), “I didn’t know what I was talking about.”
Parker’s recollections evoke the very nature of memory, their potent images never too fully limned, never lingering over the emotions they incite. “Dear Mr. You” reminds us what a glorious business life can be even at its worst, if you can tug it into the right frame of view. It makes me hope that my young son might grow up to be the sort of fellow worthy of a letter from someone the caliber of Mary-Louise Parker. I cannot imagine anyone worth knowing who would not fall in love with the shimmering vision at the core of this masterful book.
“Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You is straight-up fantastic; a gripping and deeply humane and often hilarious book. It catches glimpses of life at all sorts of unexpected moments, electrifying them with its sharp-eyed astonishment at how absurd and joyous things can get. There’s nothing cheaply-earned about its wonder; nothing sugarcoated in its gratitude.It’s all grit, all messy particulars—full of surprise and full-throated in its song.” (Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams)
“To have an artist accomplished in one genre triumph in another—seemingly out of the blue—is an extraordinary event. Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You is a pants-pissingly funny, gut-wrenching meditation on her loving and tormented encounters with the masculine. From grandfather to father to son to the wacky, pre-Burning Man hippie with a loincloth who haunts her at a co-op job to the lover who deserves the coda ‘Sleep tight, little monster.’ Whether honoring the ash-covered firefighter she sees on 9/11 or shouting as a crazy person at her malignantly lost cabdriver, Parker merges memoir with poetry in this haunting, sui generis work. I drank it down in one gulp, then started back at page one again. A magnificent, necessary surprise.” (Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club and Lit)
"This book will shake your soul out. Funny, surprising, angry, intimate, political, saucy, profound, and very very tender indeed, this is a book that will pass from mother to daughter to father to son and back to mother again. A wonderful literary achievement." (Colum McCann, New York Times bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin)
"In an industry that produces replicas, there is no one else quite like Mary-Louise Parker...Funny, heartbreaking, and profound." (Elle)
"Bruisingly honest." (Vogue)
"The book is written in a smart, beguiling voice that is inextricably entwined with qualities that Ms. Parker radiates as an actress. There’s as much flintiness as reckless charm. Flirtation and mischief are big parts of her arsenal. So is the honest soul-searching that gives this slight-looking book much more heft than might be expected....Its tone is brave and warmly conspiratorial, neither of which has ever hurt an already well-known, professionally adorable person when it comes to attracting readers. That Ms. Parker’s book is so seriously good seems like overkill." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
"Poetic and often hilarious." (Cosmopolitan)
"The most provocative memoir hitting shelves in the coming months." (Hollywood Reporter)
"Intimate and polished." (Associated Press)
"Memoir readers, storytellers and lovers, starving artists, letter writers, and dreamers will enjoy." (Library Journal)
"The farthest thing imaginable from a celebrity memoir...a portrait of a human life apart from the cycles of fame: private, flawed, strange, funny, polished and reflective." (BookPage)
"Yes, that Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds, Proof). Her debut memoir is couched as a series of letters--funny, heartbreaking, steamy, wise--to men who have touched her life: friends, family, lovers and total strangers....Parker doesn't name names or connect dots. What she does is provide a series of strobe-lit glimpses into an extraordinary life." (MORE)
"Parker's first book is unconventional, spirited, refreshingly honest, and painfully funny....Each letter proves Parker as a writer capable of inspiring depth and self-reflection. With Dear Mr. You, this accomplished actress can confidently add "slash writer" to her bio — and her fans should consider that addendum just as confidently." (Bustle)
"Parker stakes her claim as 'best literary writer' among contemporary celebrities with this fiction-memoir hybrid. The title refers to the book’s epistolary approach: it features a series of real and fiction letters sent to the men in her life. It’s often funny as hell." (Flavorwire)
"Parker's prose is infused with a perfect balance of sarcasm, humor and poetic language. Her letters shine with candid, self-aware depth--unabashed in revealing the truth of her own nature and experiences." (Shelf Awareness)
“Parker's missives move effortlessly among nostalgia, intensity, and playfulness, but in the end, they all work together to reveal both the small and large ways in which we impact each other. A unique, poised, and polished first book from a respected actress.” (Kirkus)
“A bold, powerful, and decidedly non-Hollywood exercise… Each letter paints a fuller picture of its author. . . . [Parker's] poet’s prose is lyrical, funny, sad, strange, and very often beautiful . . . Yes, she’s a writer, too.” (Booklist)
"Dear Mr. You boasts both innovative style and profound substance. . . . Parker’s writing is full of poetry, too, with lines as startling as breaking glass. . . . Flashing backward and forward in time, and into and out of all these lives, Dear Mr. You is really about finding the beauty, the humor — and the sorrows — in our lives and the lives of others, and being glad and grateful for all of it. So here is my letter: Dear Ms. Parker, Thank you for this dazzling collection." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"By turns fiercely intelligent and downright goofy, Parker is above all relentlessly self-critical, and often self-deprecating. Among the many things we learn she cannot do are juggle, manage money, and say no. What she can do is write. Many actors produce books, but few of these leave a reader wanting more;Parker is a formidably talented exception." (Boston Globe)
"Deeply funny and entirely original." (Vanity Fair)
"Lyrical, funny and passionate....she's a serious writer." (Newsday)
"The author's wit and passion shine through." (People)
"A colorful anthology of funny, lonely and poignant moments from one woman's life. Her biographical approach is extremely innovative. Parker takes a hard look at the men in her life in order to analyze their impact on the woman she is today. And that woman is complex, compassionate, loving and talented." (Associated Press)
"I am a memoir connoisseur. I teach the form. I read dozens upon dozens of 'true' stories every year, and only two or three stand out. Dear Mr. You stands out." (Chicago Tribune)
"Parker dives into complex topics that aren’t always easy to put to paper with humor and rich, full writing. She draws the readers in and will have them hooked until the final page. Dear Mr. You is a thrilling and brilliant début by an accomplished actor." (The Daily Iowan)
"Dear Ms. You...What could have been merely a trope or a trick becomes more than that by virtue of your sheer perspicacity, your willingness to wear your vulnerability on your sleeve, and some excellent, stylish writing. You can add to your resume, alongside outstanding actress, accomplished author." (NPR.org)
"Smart, funny, sad, entertaining, never boring. It is that rare thing in books written by bold-faced names: a very pleasant surprise. Put it another way: If no one knew who you were, this would still be a book worth reading." (The Daily Beast)
"That rarest of things: A celebrity actor’s memoir that briefly elevates the form with a literary approach and some real style." (Phoenix New Times)
"Parker writes with a poetic urgency and flighty grace that you’ve seen before in the characters she’s played. And the result is remarkably compelling." (Purewow.com)
"Mary-Louise Parker is a smart, smart woman who GETS LIFE. In Dear Mr. You, Parker puts together all the letters she’s written to the men in her life. Her grandfather, a priest, boyfriends. It’s all there. It’s dynamite." (HelloGiggles)
"Here in these pages, Parker is a woman blessed with social intelligence and great sensitivity to detail, who treasures genuine emotion over empty posturing and lives according to instinct and intuition." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Quite stunning...At times poetic, at times deeply funny, these missives strike the right balance between sentiment and fact, storytelling and musing." (The Toronto Star)
"Leave it to
"Unveils intimate details about her childhood and her relationships with a refreshing sincerity." (New Yorker)
Top customer reviews
Mary-Louise Parker has written letters via her stream of consciousness to everyone from 3 men she dated that she refers to as Cerberus to NASA.
These are not the type of stories/essays you're used to where someone says I used to be a nerd and then tells you a story proving their nerd-status. Here MLP, in what feels like free flowing thought, takes one person, and speaks to them in a way that reveals so much more about herself and the human condition.
There were moments so beautiful and raw that they crawled under my skin and will forever live with me. Other times, out of the blue, I found myself laughing only to suddenly be surprised and find myself teary-eyed. The stories, content, and writing are surprisingly wonderful and before I'd even finished I knew this was a book I'd always want on my bookshelf.
*This is not for celebrity gossip fans looking for MLP to "dish dirt" on anyone.
It’s so transparent, how willing we are to dismiss the intelligence of someone who rejects us, though that renders them incapable of sound judgment.
- Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 36)
I said I don’t know how to say no, I only know how to yell it.
-Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 46)
Part of why we can’t explain the origin of language is our reaction to perceived truth. If words were entirely reliable they would have evolved as the most efficient means of communication, but they haven’t, because humans lie. An ape makes a sound or gesture to another ape signaling that it wants a banana. It gets the banana or not, but the communication is clear..Despite the fact that animals do “deceive” one another, they are resistant to deceit when they sense it. An ape would simply ignore a communication that was too convoluted, which I think would be a big fat relief. Humans are saddled with some many terrific ways of overcomplicating what we want. “I will give you five dollars for that banana,” or “How come Jolene gets a banana and I don’t?” …All of this takes us further away from what is ultimately: Banana. Give it. We have all these fancy ways to say things, so why do we end up walking away from a simple interaction wondering, “What did they mean by that?”
--Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 63-4)
I read about stars that wander the galaxies. Some end up with their bright sides in the face of some dim unlocked planet who neglected to deal with its issues. With their volcanic air of refusal, those tidally locked stars never show their dark half and all the junk in their trunks where nothing grows. It is the baldest metaphor I can imagine. The white dwarf star, once so carefree, starts sucking the life force from its stingy blue companion, and a mutual thievery ensues until a supernova rolls up and obliterates everything they shared together. Somehow the white dwarf limps onward, meekly blinking, its space tag now reading, “Hi! My name is Zombie Star! Ask me about codependence!”
--Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 134)
I, yes, am very sleepy and unable to control reflexes. What does it really matter, though, if I just belched softly and consequently peed on myself? Yes, I am breathing so loudly through my mouth that I appear to be snoring with my eyes open and I smell. I am smelly. Look past that to the swaddled perfection in the bassinet. He vibrates with goodness and he is mine. You are correct that I am making a blunder but it’s my mistake to make. And just you wait. This is nothing. I may put a fresh spin on ruinous parenting. I will undoubtedly scar him repeatedly, no matter how hard I try no to. I don’t need help. I’m fully equipped to screw up my child all by myself and I promise I’ll get right on it. Now in fact. But in my own special ways that don’t need your input.
--Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 147)
“There is no now,” my father would say, banging his cane on the floor on the word now. “ As soon as you say the word, it’s already in the past. When is it? There isn’t one.”
--Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 194)
Before purchasing, I googled and looked up some of Mary Louise Parker's work at Esquire and various other outlets, just to get a feel of her writing, and was surprised how wonderfully descriptive and poetic she can be. (Right when she gets to the point of rambling, she pulls out some real emotion that sucks you right back into the stories.)
Is this book something you should down in one sitting? Not exactly...
As cliche as it may sound, I honestly believe this book is best enjoyed on a sunny, weekend morning with a cup of coffee (maybe a cigarette, too, if that's your thing), reading a passage or two at a time and just savoring the emotions MLP can make you go through.
I laughed out loud, held back a few tears, and even felt the penetration of her sexual partners.
TL,DR: Overall, I would rate this as a coffee table book. It's not a novel, just a collection of short stories to men in MLP's life.