Durga Chew-Bose: Too Much and Not the Mood Book Review

I began writing this post even before I’d finished this book simply out of excitement that I’d found her! I’d found the essayist who reminded me of myself, the one who I viewed like that friend. The one with tunnel vision, the one who notices every teeny tiny detail turning them into words that puncture my soul in the best way, cupping my entire mind. Afterwards, in my head, she invites me to have food.

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”I counted them and double-checked because extra-small things bring out the extra-small person in me who sometimes even triple-checks things; who still chances certainty might exist in asking, “Promise me?”

Named after a Virgina Wolf diary entry, ‘Too Much and Not the Mood’ is a book of essays channeling Chew-Bose’s most inner thoughts and home to her insightful critique of ”what it means to be a brown girl in a white world” and ”the beautiful dilemma of being first-generation Canadian.” Too Much and Not the Mood is fresh, insightful and unbelievably true to our lives. It brings to mind the noises at dinner, the safety of your parents’ house, the quiet of living alone or the experience of cinema – this is how vast her scope is. Chew Bose writes earnestly about the things we neglect as things frankly; things we don’t acknowledge as important to the bigger picture, but they are just that, important.

“Because writing is a grunt, and when it’s good, writing is body language. It’s a woman narrowing her eyes to express incredulity.” 

Who knew taking everyday tangible moments and heightening them to mean so much more, could make us think of things like the meaning of comfort, the psychology of Build-A-Bear Workshop or of fishing as a child in such a profound way. Chew Bose is the queen of weaving neatly through her thoughts, explaining and analyzing but always concluding with bite.

“It’s an elbow propped on the edge of a table when you’re wrapping up an argument, or to signify you’re just getting started. An elbow propped on the edge of a table is an adverb.”

This book will make you go back, go back and finite the things in your life you have taken for granted, make you want to tell your family you love them, maybe even make you want to understand how your family thinks you view them. Ask how they view you? It will make you remember, remember smells and trips, remember what you have done, little things you do all the time. She calls to mind movies and love, perspective, and understanding. This book also chronicles Chew-Bose’s critical feelings of displacement being Indian and Canadian and living in Montreal and New York. This book creates a sense of solitude, and as Chew-bose remarks ”that life that you’re living alongside your life.” She initiates a voice, so true and real, it may wake up the person you know you are, the one you are meant to be or simply, the unheard voice inside of you. Her power is in her prose, but best of all, her power is coated in her questions.

“Isn’t it fun to read a sentence that races ahead of itself?”

Chew-Bose’s observational skills may distract slightly, but whenever she goes slightly off-kilter, she returns with gusto. She opens up, lets us in her ‘heart museum’ to start and then frolics to pronunciations of her name, her parent’s divorce, skin tone and high school memories. Her thoughts are intellectual and her nostalgia is rich with character and sentiment, reminiscent of Maggie Nelson’s essays where she wavers always returning with an objective or even Joan Didion’s haunting style of shock. As much can be said for her chapter titles, her stories drift, possibly delayed even but pertaining to a celestial style that she owns authentically.

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Durga Chew-Bose is a writer from Montreal, Canada based in Brooklyn,NY.

 

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