I'll Tell You in Person: Essays

In the opening pages of I'll Tell You in Person, Chloe Caldwell (Legs Get Led Astray) reflects on the first personal essay she read: "Mono No Aware" by Miki Howard. Dissecting Howard's work, Caldwell asks, "But how did she do that? Take something from her life and craft it into this moving piece of art that resonated with me even though it had nothing to do with me?"

The pieces in I'll Tell You in Person attempt to answer that question, as Caldwell's personal experience centers on universal themes of friendship, love and self-discovery. This is more successful in some essays than others (though these successes and failures may be more a reflection of the reader than the writer). In "Hungry Ghost," Caldwell explores the lengths to which we will go to impress others. "Sisterless" tries to give shape to a relationship that moves beyond friendship and into some nameless place. Female friendship surfaces again and again, both as the central theme of particular essays (as in "Maggie and Me: A Love Story," the story of a friendship found and lost) and as a secondary theme in stories of coming out and hooking up and hitchhiking and job hunting and quitting and searching.

Caldwell doesn't always paint herself in a particularly favorable light: she is selfish, dangerous, boisterous, disastrous and at times heartless. This may turn off some readers, but those willing to sit with the discomfort of Caldwell's experiences, for better or worse, may feel "a touch of participation mystique while reading about [these] sometimes poor decisions." --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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