Contented Reader

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Tiny Beautiful Things

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tiny beautiful things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar

by Cheryl Strayed


I’ve been reading Dan Savage for years.  I listen to his podcast, too.  I own all of his books.  I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a ‘Dan Savage fan.’  I don’t think he’s always right.  But somehow I have taken in an enormous percentage of what he has put into the world, over the years.

Does it matter that he is a real person?  Would I stop reading and listening if I found out that he were fictional?  Is it important that his boyfriend (husband in Canada) is Terry, a younger man who sets off too many fireworks on the Fourth of July?  I’ve been reading about teenaged son DJ since he was a fetus in the womb of a troubled homeless girl… how much would it bother me if I learned that there is no DJ?  That ‘Dan Savage’ is a middle-aged spinster who has never had sex?

I hadn’t heard of ‘Dear Sugar’ before reading this book, though she’s been on the Internet for years, apparently.  Her advice column turns the form upside down.  Each reply to a question is a little philosophical essay, a tiny manifesto for living life on one’s own terms.  Sometimes, they are a little contrived.  Sometimes, they’re really beautiful.  I wish I could reread it more slowly, but there’s a hold on the book and I have to return it to the library.  Maybe I’ll pick it up again another time.

Sugar’s answers are often illustrated and informed by stories from Sugar’s own troubled and colorful life.  Her childhood abuse by her father and grandfather.  Her time working with at-risk teenagers.  Her husband, her dead mother, her children.

Sugar isn’t a real person.  Her stories are fiction.  To what degree does that change her advice?  Is advice informed by real experiences better than advice informed by illustrative fiction?  Is it important that the column seems to have been presented as being real?

These are interesting and important questions.  But I’m not going to sit and think about them right now.  Today is my girlfriend’s moving day.  She’s so nervous and excited.  The plan was for her to move, today, while I’m at work, and for me to come after work to help with the cleaning.  It’s a good plan.  But I suspect that she’d like for me to be there.  So last night, I decided to call in sick.  I’ll turn up on her doorstep at moving time, and see if she can use any help or moral support.


Written by Contented Reader

October 4, 2012 at 6:33 am

Posted in Reviews


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