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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do I review the book or the advise?, 12 July 2012
This review is from: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (Paperback)
I've been reading advise columns since "Dear Abby" and "Ann Landers" were around and giving out advise to the love-lorn and life-torn who depended on the two dear ladies' vast reservoir of wisdom. "Ann" and "Abby" were twins in real life, who, while dispensing advise to others, were having trouble keeping their own houses in order. Almost everyone, in Chicago at least, knew "Eppie/Ann" and "Popo/Abby" had been feuding for years and that "Eppie's" husband had left her after 30 or so years of marriage for the dreaded "younger woman". Who can forget "Ann's" column lamenting the end of her marriage to Jules, and leaving the column with dead space at the end of it to symbolise the marriage that just didn't make it? No one, I'm telling you, no one! That was one "Ann Landers" column that will live on in the hearts and minds of all who read it!

And the reason that I am mentioning that particular column was that aside from "Jules and me", the average reader really didn't know anything about "Ann Landers" or "Dear Abby" and their private lives, at least from reading their columns. What we did know about the two was gleaned from Chicago-gossip by people who knew them, like my grandparents who lived in the apartment next door to Eppie and Jules. And also from stray mentions in Chicago newspapers, who may have wanted to keep the rivalry alive between the dueling twins/dueling columns. After the twins left the advise business, due to death and senility, similar advise columns continued with the clear line maintained between advise-seeker and advise-giver. That seemed to make sense; if I had ever written for advise about my problems, I really didn't care to know about the problems of the lady at the other end of my letter. I obviously had enough problems of my own and couldn't take on anyone else's.

But in later years this business model of anonymous advise-giver giving advise to anonymous troubled-person seemed to have been completely upended. Now people turn to Dan Savage, "Cary Tennis, the guy from "Salon", and Cheryl Strayed, all of whom dispense their own life experiences and problems along with their answers to their readers. I don't know if that's supposed to make the advise-seeker feel better, "Jeez, what is my paltry problem against Cary's life-long problems?" And the thing is that all these new advisers actually give out pretty good advise; the reader usually just has to search between weeds of other's troubles to find solutions to their own. I assume that by now a troubled person seeking help knows that's how advise is dispensed.

Cheryl Strayed, the advise columnist for "The Rumpus" writing under the pseudonym "Sugar", has published a book, in trade paper, of some of her best questions/answers. The book is called "Tiny Beautiful Things" and is quite an enjoyable read. I enjoyed learning more (possibly than I really wanted to know) about "Sugar"/Cheryl's life as she answered her reader's often anguished cries of help about the problems in their lives. Marital discord, parent/child disharmony, career problems were just a few of the issues that Cheryl addressed in her replies. But, all too often, the answers and advise she gave were hidden behind her own life issues. I mean, the poor guy who was congenitally ugly and wanted to know if he'd ever have a love life, had to wade through pages about Cheryl's friend who was badly burned in an accident and his problems to find something for HIM. And the poor girl who didn't know if she should stay with the guy she loved or leave him and find herself elsewhere, had to read about Cheryl and her personal search for happiness after marrying her first husband before finally hitting the nugget of truth, "yes, you should leave and find yourself".

But the reason the book was enjoyable to me was that I was NOT reading the book to receive any advise. It didn't bother ME that the people who did write to her for advise had to search for it in her answers. I was really a disinterested outsider with my own problems that are not the same as "Sugar"/Cheryl was addressing. So the question I asked in the title of my review - "Do I review the book or the advise" - is a problem. I finally decided to give it a 4 star rating; a median of 5 stars for the book and 3 stars for the advise structure. The bottom line is that at age 61, I'm probably too old to completely get with the new form of advise giving. Give me "Ann" and "Abby" any day.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Aug 2012, 20:43:19 BST
Take my advice and spell advice this way

Posted on 12 Dec 2012, 13:08:44 GMT
Haven't you done in your review exactly what you accusing Cheryl Strayed of doing - writing a ream about your own experience and then only at the very end really getting to the point of what you're saying?!!

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Dec 2012, 13:28:07 GMT
Jill Meyer says:
Thanks for your note and you're absolutely right. I tried to write it that way, but I'm not as good a writer as Strayed is!
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