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Thoughts: DEAR MR. YOU by Mary-Louise Parker

dear mr. you by mary-louise parker

I wish I could remember what made me pick up Mary-Louise Parker’s book Dear Mr. You, but I’m drawing a blank. I’d heard a lot of good things about the book, but I can’t figured out what it was that prompted me to actually buy it (other than the fact that my name is Kim and I am a book-buying addict). It turned out to be a rather perfect little collection of essays for my reading-challenged brain.

Parker is an actress probably best-known for playing pot-dealing suburban mom Nancy Botwin on Weeds, but I also loved her stint as Amy Gardner on The West Wing (so great!). Dear Mr. You, her first book, is a memoir told in letters to various men in her life. There are obvious ones like her father and grandfather (really touching) as well as some unexpected choices like “Future Man Who Loves My Daughter” and “NASA” that help tell the story of who Parker is and how she’s lived her life.

It’s actually kind of interesting to write about this book shortly after I pondered ghostwriting in celebrity memoirs, since it’s abundantly clear from the first page that the writing in this book is all Parker. She’s candid and funny and open and vulnerable on every page. And although each essay is a letter to a man, the book is very much about Parker – her choices, her experiences, her desires, her fears and her joys. I loved that about the collection.

That said, it’s also one of those books where the writing came awfully close to being over done. There were a few places where it felt like style might overwhelm the substance of the letter – the opening essay is this rather incredible run-on list to all of the men Parker writes about that nonetheless had me a little worried – but on the whole I thought it was really lovely.

My very favorite little passage came in an essay called “Dear Man Out of Time,” one of the shorter pieces about a brief, friendly relationship Parker developed with a who had terminal cancer. She ends with this paragraph, which took me back to being on the beach in Greece – one of the perfect views of my own lifetime:

It was short but I loved our little trip. We fell in love, but the way you love a view that comes along once or twice in life. You don’t want to leave it because it feels like, yes of course, this is the perfect spot. Those moments always come with a little shock and I love that sensation, when you think, this is too good, I’ll catch up with everyone else later. You just have to take in the truth of that expanse a few more seconds before it changes and becomes something else entirely, or before you do.

Love it. I’m so glad to have read this book.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • BermudaOnion (Kathy) December 1, 2015, 9:05 am

    I was never clear if this is really a memoir or not – I’d read conflicting things. Either way, it was too smart for me.

  • Citizen Reader December 1, 2015, 12:01 pm

    Huh, this one just keeps coming up and coming up. I was resisting it but I can see I’m going to have to give in. I love her as an actress, so why not?

    • Kim December 7, 2015, 7:48 pm

      I think it’s one of those books you just sort of have to go with, every essay has a little different rhythm and feel sort of experimental, but I really liked it.

  • Jennine G December 2, 2015, 8:08 am

    Interesting concept. This would be cool to use in a class (if it was appropriate). I have a similar writing exercise for a book where students are to reveal character through letter writing. It’s harder than it seems!

    • Kim December 7, 2015, 7:49 pm

      Some of them would be, others definitely would not be appropriate 🙂 I think some would be great conversation starters though — what does this format allow MLP to do that a more “straight” memoir might miss?

  • Beth F December 2, 2015, 8:15 am

    I’ve seen reactions run the whole range from “huh?” to “love.” I have a copy, but haven’t been tempted to read it yet. Maybe I’ll dip in and test the waters.

    • Kim December 7, 2015, 7:49 pm

      I had a couple essays where I had a “huh?” reaction, but overall there were enough great parts that I liked the book as a whole.

  • Andi December 4, 2015, 10:15 am

    I was really iffy about this one, but it actually sounds pretty perfect for me. I like these types of books when I’m feeling slumpy. Going onto the wishlist!

    • Kim December 7, 2015, 7:49 pm

      The short essays were great for a slumpy time, easy to just dip into between other stuff.

  • susan December 4, 2015, 5:20 pm

    The paragraph you quote is quite good. Why am I surprised that she can write? She was good in West Wing!

  • Laurie C December 9, 2015, 5:39 am

    I just finished Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx on audio and am looking for more humorous memoirs/essays! I went right on to Terry Pratchett’s collection of essays, A Slip of the Keyboard, but will see if this one is available. I’m not familiar with the author/actor, that I know of, although I’ve heard her name.

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