My Misspent Youth
Copyright © 2001
by Meghan Daum
Open City Books
How to Buy
Meghan Daum is one of the most celebrated nonfiction writers of her
generation, widely recognized for the fresh, provocative approach
with which she unearths hidden fault lines in the American landscape.
From her well-remembered New Yorker essays about the financial demands
of big-city ambition and the ethereal, strangely old-fashioned
allure of cyber relationships to her dazzlingly hilarious riff in
Harper's about musical passions that give way to middle-brow
paraphernalia, Daum delves into the center of things while closely
examining the detritus that spills out along the way. She speaks
to questions at the root of the contemporary experience, from the
search for authenticity and interpersonal connection in a society
defined by consumerism and media; to the disenchantment of working
in a "glamour profession"; to the catastrophic effects of living
among New York City's terminal hipsters. With precision and
well-balanced irony, Daum implicates herself as readily as she
does the targets that fascinate and horrify her. In a review of
The KGB Bar Reader, in which Daphne Merkin singled out Daum's
essay about the inability to mourn a friend's death, Merkin wrote:
"It's brutally quick, the way this happens, this falling in love
with a writer's style. Daum's story hooked me by the second line.
Hmm, I thought, this is a writer worth suspending my routines for."
from the jacket
For several years now, I've kept copies of some of these essays in a
manila folder by my desk. When friends or colleagues ask if I know
of any especially interesting new writers, I pull out the folder
and head for the photocopier. Meghan Daum's essay Variations on
Grief is one of the most stunningly honest things I've ever read.
And throughout this book, there are a surprising number of moments
when your jaw just drops in amazement at what she's saying.
Even when she's being funny, her writing has a clarity and
intensity that just makes you feel awake.
Ira Glass, host of NPR's This American Life
A Joan Didion for the new millennium, Meghan Daum brings grace, wit,
and insight to contemporary life, love, manners, and money. Her
misspent youth is a reader's delight. Dan Wakefield
A voice that is fresh and wickedly funny, bracing in its honesty.
Bruce Jay Friedman
Meghan Daum articulates the only secret left in the culture: discreet but powerful
fantasies of romance, elegance, and ease that survive in our uncomfortable world of
striving. These essays are very smart and very witty and just heartbreaking enough
to be deeply pleasurable. Marcelle Clements
An empathic reporter and a provocative autobiographer ... I finished it in a single
afternoon, mesmerized and spluttering. The Nation
Pretty damn irresistible. Newsday
Caustic and amusing ... Sublime musings on modern life. Us Weekly
[Daum writes] bravely and with heart ... Hilarious, lyrical ... The
Full of honesty, insight, and wicked wit ... A wonderful debut ... My Misspent
Youth marks the arrival of a brave new writer. Bookpages
Smart, assured, and unpredictable ... Never less than original in her observations,
never less than honest in her self-examinations ... A brave writer. Flaunt
Meghan Daum has the true essayist's gift: she will say what no one
else is willing to say (about being a shiksa, about leaving New
York, about being unable to grieve), and through her eloquent and
vivid candor she embodies for the reader nothing less than what it
feels like to be alive in America right now. David Shields
Essay lovers can take heart ... Daum offers the disapproval of
youth, leavened with pithy humor and harsh self-appraisal ...
An edgy read. Publishers Weekly
A Manhattan-centric, playful collection of essays from a young
writer searching for authenticity in a material world.
Her work demonstrates honesty and an ability to look perceptively
at herself and contemporary life.
Daum's is a provocative and refreshing new voice. Library
The Quality of Life Report
Copyright © 2003
by Meghan Daum
How to Buy
Jaded by a life of eating from plastic containers, dodging the feng shui in her boss's office,
and reporting on thong underwear as a lifestyle correspondent for New York morning television,
the thirtyish Trout is ripe for escape. So when the rent on her tiny mouse-ridden apartment
doubles overnight, she heads for Prairie City, USA, to feed her own and every New Yorker's
heartland fantasy in dispatches tagged "The Quality of Life Report." "Real life" is what
Lucinda's after-and, if possible, a man who knows how to wield a hammer. Fantasy becomes
reality (in Prairie City, deviled eggs are a delicacy and fake nails are de rigueur); but
reality has surprises up its sleeve. It takes Lucinda through an epiphany and an unlikely
romance in a tale that is redemptive, wickedly witty, and heartbreaking all at once.
from the publisher
Meghan Daum has written a stunner of a book outrageously perceptive, unexpectedly
poignant, and most of all incalculably funny. I found myself chortling aloud in my bed as
I read it, amazed at its take-no-prisoners attitude to all that passes for a hip inhabitation
of the world. The Quality of Life Report
is everything that touted novels by young urban women
are supposed to be but generally are not: original, wise beyond its years, and absolutely true
to itself. Daum's is a glistening talent, one that leaves most of her contemporaries
male and female in the dust. What can I say? Here's a novel for the ages."
As hilarious as this novel is, its core is hard-won wisdom. Writing that appears this
effortless can only be accomplished by the rigor and magic of a truly gifted novelist.
Melissa Bank, author of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing
With a keen eye and trenchant wit, Meghan Daum skewers the obsessive narcissism
and sense of entitlement that passes for real values in our media-driven culture.
Always funny, often painfully so, The Quality of Life Report is more than simply
satirical. It is an intelligent and heartfelt tale of a young woman, making radical
choices and waking up to her life.
Ruth Ozeki, author of My Year of Meats and All Over Creation
I cared deeply about Lucinda Trout, Meghan Daum's winning, hilarious,
Chardonnay-seeking narrator. Lucinda and Ms. Daum herself share a flair
for chic satire, plain truth, and, most impressively, a rare, wise forgiveness.
David Schickler, author of Kissing in Manhattan
... a confident first novel, full of wit and deft social criticism,
often very funny and
frequently wise. Daum is a rising star. Baker Books
A confident first novel, full of wit and deft social criticism, often very funny and
frequently wise. Daum is a rising star. Publishers Weekly
At once hilarious and wistful, it's such a pleasure to read that after you turn the last page, you want to start
over from the beginning and read it again.
[A] funny, literate ... entertaining, and often touching story of a single woman lurching into her thirties.
Reads like The Bridges of Madison County etched in acid. ... The simple life never looked so complicated.
Daumís enormous comic gift and her ability to use it in the service of fundamentally serious issues
is an unexpected delight. New York Times Book Review
Daum brings a crisp, wisecracking voice to her novel ... an admirably nuanced view of the American heartland.
The New Yorker
Pretty damn irresistible. New York Newsday
Daum has written a first-rate novel. Dan Wakefield, The Boston Globe
Smart, stylish and sometimes downright hilarious. Los Angeles Times