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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 85/100: Popular by Maya Van Wagenen

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir) - Maya Van Wagenen

I'm a sucker for little experiments in changing your life -- "my year of doing " memoirs always seem to catch my eye, and I'm prone to doing such experiments in my own life, too. I've tried the Complaint-Free Life Challenge, 100 Happy Days, and various other "life-changing," consciousness-raising experiences. I think these are all tools to bring us greater awareness about ourselves and our lives, although to call them life changing might be a bit of a stretch.


This book was very well-written, and I have a feeling it was probably heavily edited to bring it to that point. Although it is written as a journal, it is also written in present tense -- and this doesn't seem like a literary device many 14-year-olds would use in their own journals. There is also a stronger narrative arc and greater detail than I think would have occurred naturally. But although editing may have made this book somewhat less "authentic," it's very easy to read, and that's a fair trade-off.


I was surprised by how truly isolated Maya was at the beginning of this book, and she experiences the dramatic ups-and-downs that are typical of junior high, with the one difference being that she is contextualizing them through the lens of her social experiment. I have to give her props for her bravery -- especially in the chapter where she follows fashion advice from the fifties. I also admire that she managed not to tell anyone about the experiment -- when I did my "deviance project" for just one week back in college, it was hard for me not to tell people who knew me what was going on. Also, I felt like her best friend really wasn't that good of a friend at all, but maybe that has to do with the way the audiobook reader interpreted her.


The book was a little sickening in places -- I had to roll my eyes at how superficial a lot of the advice from the fifties was, and I could have done without some of Maya's self-deprecation, too. But overall, it's an interesting project that lends itself to an interesting book.