And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould
My Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars
I needed some time to find words to describe this reading experience. Emily Gould does not reinvent the wheel here; neither are her anecdotes unique or especially weird/funny/terrible/anything. Why all the stars, then? Well, I guess that’s because I could relate to her so much. This collection simply got to me since I am in a very similar situation right now as Gould was when she came to NY.
Having finished my Master’s Degree I am looking for my first “real” job and having a degree in the humanities section makes this, well, let’s say, a bit of a pain in the ass.
Reading this, I sometimes felt directly talked to (or talked about).
“I’d thought that I was smart, that it was my smartness that made me exceptional. Now I had to adjust my thinking in one of two ways. 1. I wasn’t smart, but something else made me exceptional. 2. I was neither smart nor exceptional.” (p.20)
“In college I’d had a half-acknowledged fantasy that a teacher would recognize some talent in me and decide to make me her protégé, but it had never happened, probably because I was such a prickly and pretentious little jerk, with no innate gift for ass-kissing.” (p.91)
and this one:
“I searched the job descriptions, looking for a position that seemed to have what I was looking for, but I couldn’t find one. It would have helped, I guess, if I’d any idea what I was looking for.” (p.93)
Those quotes could have been taken from my personal diary (if I had one). And I felt understood and also a bit creeped out.
And then it got really creepy. There is this one description of how she says good-bye to her boyfriend every morning when she goes to work.
“I breathed in his warm, sleepy smell and touched the bristles of his close-shaved head, admiring the defenseless, private look of him without his glasses.” (p.206)
Sounds exactly like my boyfriend when I say good-bye to him in the morning before going to “work” (God, I hate my job!).
There is also one anecdote that deals with a long-time friend she keeps in contact with only sporadically, but every time they meet it feels so great and they feel so close and she sees how much she has missed her and so on. And on other occasions there is this unbridgeable gap between them and she cannot remember why they were friends once and they don’t really have anything in common any more. I guess everyone has someone like that in their life but when I read this I clearly saw the face of my oldest girlfriend in front of me and remembered various occasions that were examples of those scenarios described by Gould.
There are many more (sometimes very personal and detailed) examples which completely got to me because of their similarity to my experiences and my life.
The only aspect of this collection I have to criticize is that sometimes Gould seems to lack the ability to focus. Her essays don’t always follow a common thread and she keeps jumping between topics. But really, this is the only negative thing I can say about this. I know that people tend to think that she is a bit too full of herself but, honestly, what do you expect when you pick up an autobiographical essay collection?
The relationships and friendships and job-related situations she describes where just so relatable to me it sometimes hurt. This book made me smile and it made me shed a tear or two. It simply got (to) me. And I realize that this is a very personal impression and not everyone will love this collection as much as I did but I am also guessing that there are more people out there who feel like Emily Gould – and like me, for that matter.