Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

“All Sides Now” Falls Flat

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“Well. That’s two hours out of my life I’ll never be able to get back” grumps Her Grumpiness. “What a hunka junk! And to think I coulda been playing Canasta! Or watching cheese grow mold!”

What?

Mom has just finished reading a real dud. It’s called All Sides Now. You might want to grab the nearest flak jacket. Cuz…. Incoming! I’ll let her explain:

Remember that iconic Joni Mitchell folk tune from yesteryear, Both Sides Now? Sung by Judy Collins, the song’s “bittersweet lyrics” portray “the duality of human experience.” Along the same lines, All Sides Now seeks to describe a life “steeped in duality and balance” via a mildly interesting collection of personal essays on a wide variety of topics.

What Mom Really Thinks

That’s what I said in my Reedsy/Discovery review. Here’s what I really think:

All Sides Now: A Memoir in Essays by [Sheila Smith]They Can Be Tricky

Memoirs can be tricky. In order to be read-worthy, the author must establish a link of shared experiences or a light bulb moment between writer and reader. Memoirs navigate a mine field of “Who are you and why should I care?” To clear a path forward into relevance and relatability (new word I just made up), a “memoir” should include something bigger than the writer. Something transcendent that’ll resonate with others.

Unfortunately, All Sides Now is so self-absorbed and ingrown, the star and sole performer is Me, Myself and I. The audience isn’t given a second thought. It’s all downhill from there.

Redundant & Repetitious

The story is also redundant at times, relating and replaying the same timeline and events repeatedly. … relating and replaying the same timeline and events repeatedly. (That’s not a typo.) We got your upbringing with your loving dad and schizophrenic mom the first 3,525 times you brought it up, lady. No need to beat us over the head with it. Also, readers may sometimes wonder if they’re reading a memoir of a commercial jingle or campaign ad:

“Public schools and libraries deserve society’s support because they support society.”

Now there’s a stroke of genius. Gag me.

Voice

Curiously, it sometimes seems as if two different people voice this memoir. The first part comes across as academic. Almost clinical. As dry as burnt toast, it radiates all the personality and warmth of the Polar Ice Caps. The narrative thaws later on and picks up some warmth and freshness.  Whether or not readers will stick around for the latter is open to question. (I’d bail out early ‘fize you. Just sayin.’)

Pot Shots?

The narrative seemingly can’t resist taking pot shots at the other side of the political aisle. The chapter entitled “I Dream of Donald,” in which the author relates a dream about meeting the former president in the White House, is bizarre. And as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise. Yawn.

Brilliant or Childish?

Observations and conclusions teeter between brilliant and almost childish. Per the latter: “The strong bond between us (twins) is what brought us to our adulthood happy ending. Twins are forever!” A masterful grasp of the obvious is demonstrated with statements like, “A profound psychological shift occurs between being a child and having a child.”

Biggest Problem

The biggest problem with this book – besides being badly overwritten and so strident it could double as filler for Vitameatavegamin, without the laugh track? That it’s fallow and disjointed? That chapters are tossed together like they were poured out of a blender? It’s boring. Think Snoozeville on steroids.

Format

The format is also problematic. Most “memoirs” follow a definitive chronology of events or a specific timeline. Not this hunka junk. Events and experiences from growing up/childhood years slam in and out of events and experiences from college years and adulthood like a Novak Djokovic ground stroke at Wimbledon. Chapters are loosely arranged by topic, not time frame. But who’s counting?

Who Cares?

Also, there’s a lot of “And your point is…?” in this book. Cuz, it doesn’t really have one. Aimlessly nattering from one “Who cares?” topic to the next while knitting together some nominally interesting observation with the frequency of Hailey’s Comet doesn’t really count.

Barf-Worthy

Worse, All Sides Now turns out to be a misnomer. It’s more of a lop-sided collection of obtuse essays that make the Titanic look balanced. Moreover, when the author uses “memoir” to take pot shots at the other side of the political aisle, it’s probably time to abandon ship. And ask for a refund.

Indeed, the only thing more barf-worthy than a supercilious, cynical memoir is a vapid one. This is both. Double barf.

I’ve met potted plants more interesting than this dud. Don’t waste your time.

Our Rating: 0

 

6 thoughts on ““All Sides Now” Falls Flat

  1. I’m not a big memoir-reader for many of the reasons stated above. But I had to comment on this post because I laughed out loud at a few of your similes! Your reviews are always fun!

  2. Sounds horrible. Thanks for letting us know.

  3. I loved this snarky review! Ha ha! I’m sorry this fell flat for you, but it made for a fun review.

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