Don’t I Know You? by Marni Jackson

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“I saw myself on the news that night and was shocked by how normal and round-faced I looked. I thought I was working on a different sort of character, the girl with the cheekbones who reads Albert Camus and plays sarabandes at dusk.”

Oh how that line takes me back to what it means when you are ‘becoming’. I don’t care who you are, though most won’t admit, we’ve all tried to project ourselves as something and are deflated when we see we aren’t quite there. As ‘Miss McEwan’ (Rose) takes her “flair for art” and “way with words” to The Doon School of Fine Arts, she is introduced to more than creativity. Filled with longings a young woman coming into bloom can’t understand nor name, she falls under the spell of writer John Updike and all the passion that entails.
My favorite story in the collection is Free Love with Joni Mitchel, because for most of us love isn’t free nor communal. The caves are a wonderful atmosphere for this bohemian story, there is something almost spiritual about caves but Rose is lost here. This is love that is expired, a love that should be discarded but for unknowable reasons Rose remains. And even in the face of Nick’s indifference and selfish cruelty her thought process is, “They can’t make an exile out of me.” Sometimes we are rooted with the wrong person and getting nothing good from it. “I just felt foolish, swathed in jealousy like ugly clothes that didn’t fit.” It does feel that way when situations turn us into someone we aren’t. I connected most with Rose in those caves, humiliating herself, neglecting her needs and not leaving when she should have. In meeting Mitchell “I began to feel the expansiveness that comes with the company of a smart, frank woman.” If only we all could have a Joni Mitchell of our own- a frank woman, that could spur us into action long overdue. Younger women could navigate the world much better with the wisdom of such women.
All of these stories are linked and celebrities swim in the pages, is Jimi Hendrix truly dead? Did Dylan’s song about the moon and porch have anything to do with “Ro”, does Keith Richards dabble in surgery? Leonard Cohen (whom I adore) serving soft-ice -cream from a truck, why not? This was a fun little escape with clever writing. The celebrities are more human than idol, even if some of the stories are out there.

Flatiron Books
Pub Date: Sep 13 2016

 

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