Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Night Terrors

    Author Ashley Cardiff is quite clearly completely insane.  But believe me, I mean that in the best possible way.  Her upcoming book is referred to as a ‘sex memoir’ in a couple places.  Well, that’s not quite accurate.  It’s sure not a sex guide.  Heck, though sex is one of the main topics in many if not all of the chapters, in one way or another, I don’t thing the book is actually about sex.  Well, it is.  But it’s about others stuff, too.  And it’s laugh out loud funny more often than not.

    Do ‘bad words’ bother you?  Do you get uncomfortable hearing about penises and vaginas?  If so, you should probably skip this book and focus instead on growing up.  To say it’s frank would be something of an understatement.  Cardiff is frequently quite crass, but in that exasperated way one gets when tired of talking to prudes, when you crank it to 11 to try to shake the dust off.  Her story of discovering sex in its various forms throughout childhood and her teen years is earnest and heartfelt, even while she’s coldly picking apart herself and everyone around her.

    As someone who grew up in the late 70s and 80s, in the shadow of the Cold War not the War on Terror, who still thinks of the internet as something new, and who was already painfully out of step with his own generation anyway, I found her account of growing up in the new tech age interesting.  The little things, like the internet or cell phones that are simply a part of the background, taken for granted.  Different ideas on pop culture and social changes.  Even though she’s only a generation younger than me (if I gauge her age right, and have a proper grasp on what a generation is in this day) and I have many friends of her generation, it is the first intimate, personal memoir I have read from someone younger than me, and it’s fascinating as well as seriously funny.  There are darker moments like being stuck in a destructive relationship, being taken advantage (and nearly much more) by a sexual predator, and the things one sees while walking down a nice neighborhood in New York City.  Yet no matter how ugly something was, a page later I’d be laughing at her awkward frustration at being thought a homophobe because she didn’t like a gay man (not because he was gay, but because he was an asshole), her unpleasant relationships with significant others’ parents, her philosophical wrestling with pubic hair, and the time she almost got tricked into an orgy.

    The book trails off a bit in the final chapters as she seems to halfheartedly attempt to excuse her decision to write the book in the first place, drops a few hints about hopes for the future, etc.  But it’s still a completely readable and fun book, with a great deal of the nitty-gritty, uncomfortable and stupid things we do to each other and to ourselves in the pursuit of and fear of love, sex, and human connections.

Night Terrors: Sex, Dating, Puberty, and Other Alarming Things
Author: Ashley Cardiff
Publisher: Gotham Books
ISBN: 978-1-592-40786-6


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