Welcome to Gender Studies 101: Misconceptions.
Song Pairing: “Something, In General” by Ritt Momney Listen Here / 2018 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS Playlist
You Think It, I’ll Say It is a case study in misconception. Several case studies, actually, since it’s comprised of ten short stories.
As a grown woman reflects on the trials and tribulations of acting on assumptions, she wonders if everyone has those cringeworthy moments of “Oh no.” Curtis Sittenfeld reassures us that, yes, though we are all unique creatures made of stardust and wishes, we’re all still mostly wrong.
We all have misconceptions about other people–old bullies from high school, fellow new moms, reality tv stars, high school crushes. Those misconceptions can sometimes reflect on how we perceive ourselves, our own bodies, our own histories.
The plummet in the gut, the unexpected turn, is the hallmark of Sittenfeld’s writing.
In the story The World Has Many Butterflies, two characters play the titular game “I think it, you’ll say it.” Julie and Graham, fellow PTA parents, form a discreet bond by criticizing the cookie-cutter world around them. Graham says to Julie, “I think it. You say it,” giving her permission to speak her mind about the people around her, while Graham nods and smirks along. Julie feels validated by Graham’s attentions; he relishes her cutthroat observations without having to say a word, it’s all in his eyes, Julie thinks. They have a special connection, Julie thinks. When rumor has it that Graham and his wife are splitting, Julie finally has the gumption to tell him, “I think about you all the time.” And he pauses and says, “I was never romantically interested in you. Never. At all.”
That plummet in the gut, the unexpected turn, is the hallmark of Sittenfeld’s writing.
As short story collections go, Curtis Sittenfeld couldn’t write a bad one. So was You Think It, I’ll Say It a particularly remarkable collection? Not necessarily. What I did enjoy (The World Has Many Butterflies, Plausible Deniability, Do-Over, The Prairie Wife) I enjoyed immensely; Sittenfeld’s writing is evocative. Characters are more real for their indiscretions, more likable for their fears, more touching for their admissions. But what I didn’t care for (the remaining six stories) was only for their lack of impression. I promptly forgot about most of the collection once I set it down, until writing this review and flipping through the book to jog my memory.
Thanks goes to Random House for the ARC.