Tag Archives: meredith goldstein

CAN’T HELP MYSELF by Meredith Goldstein

I am a sucker for advice columns. I read several on a regular basis – Carolyn Hax, Ask Amy, Dear Prudence – so when I learned that there was a book coming out by Boston Globe advice columnist Meredith Goldstein, author of the “Love Letters” column, I knew I wanted to check it out. (Goldstein also wrote the novel The Singles, which I reviewed here.)

Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions From A Modern Advice Columnist is about Goldstein’s column: how she started it, the types of letters she gets and her interactions with her readers. But it’s also about Goldstein’s own life – her relationships with men and the people close to her. The “Love Letters” column addresses her readers’ relationship quandaries, covering everything from one night stands and overdue marriage proposals to work spouses and online dating. Goldstein divides the book into themes about love lives while threading her own personal narrative throughout. We learn about the guy who got away, her very close relationship with a colleague, and her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

Can’t Help Myself is a quick and interesting read. Goldstein is funny and deeply honest, so I really got a sense of who she was. I almost always agreed with the advice she gave out to her readers, even while she had trouble following it in her own life. I do wish she had spent more time behind the scenes. I wanted to hear more about how she picked the letters and trends she has noticed in 9 years of writing her column. Goldstein always seemed so sure of her answers; I’d like to have heard about the times when she just didn’t know what to advise. More focus on the role and responsibility of the advice columnist would have given Can’t Help Myself more heft.

I liked the reader letters spread throughout the book, and have, of course, now subscribed to “Love Letters” updates.

This is a fun book if you’re an advice column junkie, but in the end I wanted a little more detail and analysis.

THE SINGLES by Meredith Goldstein

I am back! Our son, Nathaniel David, was born last Friday, June 8, at 2:42 PM. I think he’s the most adorable baby boy ever. Here is a photo from when he was 2 days old:

I had the chance to do a little reading this week too. (Of course, I started this post 2 days ago and am just getting back to it today, so while the reading might not suffer terribly, the blogging most likely will!) While in the hospital, I finished The Singles, by Meredith Goldstein. The Singles is about a wedding, but instead of focusing on the bride and groom, it centers around 5 single guests at the wedding. One is a bridesmaid, one is her best friend from college, and one is another male friend from their college crowd, while one is the son of a woman who was invited but couldn’t attend and one is the bride’s uncle.

Each of the singles is dealing with either an unhappy breakup or some other issue/dissatisfaction with his or her love life, and The Singles brings those issues into relief as they contrast with the image of happily-ever-afterdom presented by the bride and groom.

The Singles is an easy read, but not necessarily a light one. It’s dry and often sad, as Goldstein pegs the feelings of self-consciousness and loneliness that anyone who’s ever attended a wedding solo has likely felt. She’s not particularly sentimental about marriage, and she’s very aware of the politics and complications that go into weddings. I liked how she really nailed the whole wedding experience, and also that time of life – late 20s – when weddings can really stir up conflicting feelings.

The characters were interesting but not that well-developed. They did things that seemed inconsistent at times, or at least surprising, because the author hadn’t developed them that extensively.

The Singles is poignant and sad at times, with some often depressing commentary about modern relationships. But I recommend it if the subject sounds appealing.