Reviewed by Lindsay Denninger -

In choosing a book to review for our Tenth Anniversary Issue, I decided to go back to the year of our launch and cover a novel released around that time. How would a book hold up ten years later? Would it still be interesting in 2012? In the age of instantaneous media and writing, what would hold up?


Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison
    Counterpoint, 2002
    ISBN 978-1582432557, 208 pages

Minimalist writer Mary Robison's novel, Why Did I Ever, is an introspective look at a woman scrambled with blinding Attention Deficit Disorder, middle age, and a wild family life. In the 1990s, Robison suffered from a case of writer's block so severe that she jotted her thoughts down on thousands of index cards to overcome it. These cards were edited and reworked to become Why Did I Ever, consisting of 536 short chapters, some taking up multiple paragraphs, and some as short as:

121

Huh.


Money Breton is a three-times divorced editor of Hollywood screenplays, visiting La-La Land frequently from her home in Louisiana to tend to the studios she works with. Dealing with the true absurdity of everyday life, Money's thoughts move from those of her formerly meth-addicted daughter, Mev, to her idiot coworkers, to driving cross-country meeting her son, Paulie, to letters she has drafted to actor Sean Penn, and all within the span of one page.

Symbolic of just how short Money's attention span is, the book's form helps draw the reader into her wild ride of a brain. She talks to her diary, she talks to her children, she talks to her friends, and most prominently, she talks to herself, reminding her to feel (or not), talk (or not), and listen (or, obviously, not).

If Why Did I Ever was written in any other form, it could be insufferable, the ramblings of an obviously confused woman. But the prose stays short and quick, sucking the reader into Money's world. Readers can hate her, love her, and empathize with her, and they certainly can't ignore her.

Though written over a decade ago, the novel still rings satirical, smart, and sad. A worthy read for fans of regular ol' narrative fiction and poetry alike, Why Did I Ever remains a distinctive look into the mind of a woman on the verge.