Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa
I’m a Benincasa fan girl.* I preordered this book as soon as I learned about the release date, and it did not disappoint. This lovely guide to being human has 52 chapters, one for each week of the year, if you wish – but I highly question anyone’s ability to put this book down.
The chapters vary in length, from very long and filled with a great story, to fewer than two pages. The topics are as deep as “Abuse is Fucking Complicated” and as pithy as “A Vagina is Not a Time Machine.” Ms. Benincasa extolls the virtues of going to the dentist (as someone who has seen a dentist every six months since she was a young child and who still has had three root canals, six crowns and TWENTY SIX CAVATIES, I fully support this chapter). She implores us to identify our blind spots and educate ourselves. She supports us getting some construction paper and glitter and going to town, pre-school-style.
I think the chapter I most took to heart was “Do It Anyway,” which features this glorious quote:
“Suck at stuff. Fuck up. Fall down. Get rejected. Get shut down. Get passed over. What the fuck else are you doing with you time?”
As someone who has recently started pitching revised chapters of her books as essays to awesome feminist websites, I can relate to getting rejected. But I’m also not going to quit, because what the fuck else am I going to do? Just stop writing? No way.
The subheading of this book is “and other awesome things they don’t teach you in school.” And it’s true, most of this we didn’t learn in school. But unlike some other good books that offer some perspective on how to be a grown up, this one feels applicable to everyone of any age. She’s not teaching you how to sign a lease (although that’s super important), she’s giving you something more. I highly recommend you head out and get this one.
*Now, for the fangirling, which I proudly claim. I love Ms. Benincasa’s writing. As you can read in my reviews of two of her other books, I first found out about her during the 2008 election season, when she provided some entertaining videos as Sarah Palin. “Agorafabulous!” explores her experience with mental illness. “Great” and “D.C. Trip” are young adult books (the former a reimagining of The Great Gatsby, and it fucking lives up to its name). I also was lucky enough to meet Ms. Benincasa at a talk and signing a couple of years ago, and since I had purchased her book on my e-reader, she signed my (at the time, empty) notebook that would eventually hold my notes for my book. Her words inspire me when I’m frustrated or unsure of how it’s all going to work out.