You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories

Curtis Sittenfeld

You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories
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You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories

Curtis Sittenfeld

In ‘The World Has Many Butterflies', a married woman flirts with a man she meets at parties by playing You think it, I’ll say it, putting into words the bitchy things she guesses he’s thinking about their fellow guests. But she is in for a shock when, in time, she finds out what was really in his mind. ‘The Nominee' sees Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, confessing her surprising true feelings about a woman journalist she has sparred with over the years. In ‘Gender Studies', a visiting academic sleeps with her taxi driver, for what turns out to be all the wrong reasons.

The theme that unites these stories in this dazzling first collection by Curtis Sittenfeld is how even the cleverest people tend to misread others, and how much we all deceive ourselves. Sharp and tender, funny and wise, this collection shows Sittenfeld’s knack for creating real, believable characters that spring off the page, while also skewering contemporary mores with brilliant dry wit.

Review

Miscommunications and misunderstandings abound in this debut collection of stories from Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, American Wife). Characters are thrown into tailspins by the return of undesirables from their schooldays, couples bicker over perceived slights, and new mothers navigate their altered existences in states of teetering uncertainty.

Sittenfeld has always excelled at characterisation in her novels, and here she proves she is just as proficient in the short form as well. Her stories’ narrators are memorable and fully realised creations, usually clever and self-sabotaging, frequently neurotic. A recurring figure throughout this collection is that of the other ‘better’ person – someone not tempted by petty urges or plagued by self-doubt. ‘Oh, to be Casey!’, the narrator of ‘The Prairie Wife’ muses, ‘To be a person who isn’t frittering away her life, having vengeful thoughts about people from her past!’ Sittenfeld’s narrators are never the Caseys of the world, and with clever dialogue and small narrative twists, it is revealed that not even the Caseys are as they appear.

Sittenfeld’s prose is crisp and wryly ironic. She is one of the very few writers who can make me laugh out loud, frequently in recognition of my own moral failings. Here is the narrator of ‘A Regular Couple’ describing her steadfast partner: ‘Jason himself seemed perfectly relaxed – he pretty much always does, which is one of his best qualities, except when it’s infuriating.’

A strong political undercurrent hums throughout the collection, firmly locating You Think It, I’ll Say It in the current day. Sittenfeld’s skewering of modern life is at once piercingly accurate, but also deeply compassionate. Occasionally, it is excruciating. This is a book for anyone who has ever been mortified by an unreciprocated adult crush, obsessed over a former classmate’s success, or been unwillingly dragged into a political debate with a taxi driver.


Bronte Coates is the digital content coordinator and the Readings Prizes manager.

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