The Sweet and the Bitter
Recently I have devoured the novel that is Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. And when a book is good, I feel it my duty as I devout reader to let the world know and almost spoil them. It is all in good means of course, I just get really excited and tell them each major plot point, character, and how I felt about it whether they understand what is going on or not up until the end where I usually am quite polite in asking, "Do you mind if I spoil it just a teensy weensey bit?" A fabulous librarian I talked to quite often luckily didn't mind at all since she was a rebel who liked to read the last few pages of a book first anyway.
Don't worry, I will try not to do as such a disservice on here. It is much better going into this read blind if you were on the fence. I will though let you know though if you need some extra umph to get this pretty pink hardcover in your hands, that the prose is some of the sweetest I have ever read in a full length novel, even though the end left me bitter for more.
Seriously, what happens next to Tess? Does she become the writer people have seen her as? Is she based off of Stephanie Danler at all more than the server experience? The world may never know.
“Any business transaction—actually any life transaction—is negotiated by how you are making the other person feel.” -Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter
Yet here I am still am, going to be asking such questions and wanting to meet Stephanie to both praise, and get to know the lovely woman who wrote such a raw story. This book, that somehow had the power to keep me turning pages just to see what was going to happen, rather than for a killer ending we see in many strictly laid out novels.
This one felt like life.
A feature that I think is what a book that sticks with a variety of people needs. A sense of perpetual reality in all the excitement of meeting possible true love or running into an epic fantasy battle. A sense that we all have scars from living- and this is the story of how living brought them about one hit at a time whether they be visible or not.
In a worn down world full of dreamers and those who want to break them down, it is nearly inevitable after all.
I think that is how I most related to Tess in this novel, though I also felt that on some level whether it be in the most minute detail, anyone could see a bit of themselves in this last minute coming of age story. Tess is someone who wants to be optimistic but ends up simply falling into a pattern I am familiar with, and not just because I have a more light experience with waitressing but because my thoughts are so much grander than reality that also deserves to be expressed. Her thought process brought such a strong voice throughout that stuck to me and my mind until the last page.
It was full of prose and beautifully tortured in some other parts that had the most lovely lust filled undertone that made each word my very own treat that books have always been for me. Especially such surprises as this book was.
I toted it around wherever I went for two days straight, and not just to show it off.
It is these books that make me think. These books that make me question myself most specifically as a writer while that positive self in the back of my mind is telling me instead, to let it inspire. To let such beautiful bound books turn into action of being present. To sit myself down and fall forward into words that do not like to not fall into place right away either.
As this book showed and will continue to as it stays in my mind for some time to come though, I have to start somewhere since life evolves and I may need to choose if I would like to with it no matter how many messy mistakes follow me without reminder. Whether it all takes me on the road where I planned or not.
“Not being able to swipe into the subway when people are backing up behind you. Waiting for him at the bar. Leaving your purse open on a stool with a mess of bills visible. Mispronouncing the names while presenting French wines. Your clogs slipping on the waxed floors. The way your arms shoot out and you tense your face when you almost fall. Taking your job seriously. Watching the sex scene from Dirty Dancing on repeat and eating a box of gingersnaps for dinner on your day off. Forgetting your stripes, your work pants, your socks. Mentally mapping the bar for corners where you might catch him alone. Getting drunker faster than everyone else. Not knowing what foie gras is. Not knowing what you think about abortion. Not knowing what a feminist is. Not knowing who the mayor is. Throwing up between your feet on the subway stairs. On a Tuesday. Going back for thirds at family meal. Excruciating diarrhea in the employee bathroom. Hurting yourself when you hit your head on the low pipe. Refusing to leave the bar though it's over, completely over. Bleeding in every form. Beer stains on your shirt, grease stains on your jeans, stains in every form. Saying you know where something is when you have absolutely no idea where it is.At some point, I leveled out. Everything stopped being embarrassing.”
-Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter