Cringe: Teenage Diaries, Journals, Notes, Letters, Poems, and Abandoned Rock Operas by Sarah BrownA very thorough review of Cringe, edited by Sarah Brown.
INSIDE COVER (ENDPAPERS): Over the past two weeks, Ive read the inside cover about ten times now. Its a daily log of outfits worn by a teenager to school. Ive read this ten times because I like the way this list makes me feel, so I have trouble progressing past this point. I, too, am a keeper of pointless records and logs. God knows Ill be referring to those lists when Im 80 years-old way more than the snarky text I wrote in my youth. Anyway, on to the snarky youth!
TITLE PAGE: I like the switch from the white on red Cringe to the red on white Cringe. Its very dramatic, like I activated the flux capacitor to 1986.
PUBLISHER INFO: Printed in Singapore? Really? The inevitable Spanish Cringe Book is going to make a bundle of profit (lower overheard). Also, Elizabeth Van Itallie did a great job designing the first five pages so far.
FAVORITE SUBMISSIONS (in order of appearance):
1. Sarah Brown - The more info that be can be given to the reader about the circumstances of an author’s entry, the more that I enjoyed the contribution. Sarah Brown’s excerpt is great because its rich with history and explanation. I really appreciated how she provided a running commentary within the text of her piece. I think that approach is hugely successful and wished other contributors knew to do that, rather than an author generalizing that he or she doesnt remember the circumstances of when he or she wrote the diary entry.
2. Greg Howard - Simply glamorous.
3. Unknown – The suspense/serenity list reminds me of my own teenage journal because its less concerned about first person. Its like the author knew that it would be read by a third party one day. I also liked that certain selections are highlighted so I know which text I should pay extra attention to.
4. Amy Shapiro – This is the fashion list that appears on the inside cover. The tenacity of writing down what is essentially the same “different” outfit everyday is hilarious.
5. Hollie Pocsai – I thought that the illogical idea of a father taking 45 minutes to retrieve a newspaper meant he was cheating on the mother was very amusing. It also provided a less selfish diary topic, which was a refreshing change of pace.
6. Elizabeth Summer – This contribution is like slapstick in text form. I guess the proper term is sight gag. Anyway, I really enjoyed it because of the ol’ switcheroo: the image of a journal cover (which is something that the public is actually allowed to see) rather than the forbidden personal contents of the journal.
7. Tracie Masek’s first entry stole the book. I laughed out loud in public reading her Journal of Rage and Hatred. The repetitious insult of so-and-so “is a big fat idiot” killed me, as did the fact that each insult took up an entire page.
8. Aubrey Sabala – The message in this excerpt was brutal. “Lets still be friends.” No explanation needed.
9. Kristine Smith - Yet another entry that actually made me giggle. “My life has been going super.” God. Its swimming in teen posturing.
10. Josh Newman – This one stood out because he’s an unabashed boob lover. He probably hasn’t changed one bit.
11. The Death of Brandon Walsh - This letter is featured in the Letters to Celebrities section. His typed letter was one of the longer submissions and I read every word. The reasoning of why Beverly Hills 90210 would benefit from killing Brandon Walsh is both self-serving and really great. Quarterly reunions would be fun. I can see the train of thought so clearly, like his ideas would teach Hollywood a thing or two, and maybe theyd bring him on board to produce.
12. Tracie Masek (again) – Tracies second entry is a letter that she wrote to actors on the X-Files. I have full faith that Tracie Masek should never ever throw away anything that she’s ever written.
13 & 14. The Last Will & Testament section is probably my favorite. Liz and Erinns wills were a great note to end on. The concept of a teen’s most valued possession is interesting because the things they own are based on infatuations and fitting-in with their peers. While reading the list of possessions, I kept thinking that had the author passed away, and had their friend been given the giant Luke Perry poster, would the friend still covet that poster today? They’re wonderful examples of the trivial and fleeting mind of a teenager.
AFTERTHOUGHT: The book’s close is a brilliant piece of commentary. Sarah Brown said something that I had never thought of before, but it’s so true and eloquent:
“When I was a teenager myself, I always thought Id be one of those cool adults who Understood and Listened, but now I realize that my reaction to any current angst is Please go form your personality somewhere far away from me. That is just awesome writing.
1. I enjoyed the chapter introductions. They were short and sweet. A few of them hit the nail on the head.
2. Why wasnt the submission on the bottom right corner of page 213 given its own page?! The actions of Rick Springfield at a Rick Springfield concert as interpreted by a teenager are gold!
1. The book contributors who have performed at the monthly Cringe readings have superior content to those who have not. Which kind of makes sense, since the performers have had a test audience to help them craft their responses as to why the diary excerpts make them cringe. Also, the Cringe performers have a firm grasp of the concept, whereas the other contributors to the book are shooting in the dark with their book submission and hoping it matches the live shows aesthetic.
2. Another area that needed improvement was identifying the age of the author at the time the diary entry was written. Most entries included the date that it was written, but reading a year means nothing to me. If somebody dated an entry 1991, heck, I was sixteen, but I cant assume that the author is my peer. That person could have been eight or twenty in 1991. I just dont know.
3. I found the first instance of the editors notes confusing. Im still not entirely sure that I get it. The other appearances made more sense, but the editors notes in general lacked cohesion compared to the rest of the material. It took me out of the story, if you will.
4. I could not get into the poetry section, even with the knowledge that the awkward poems are now considered humorous. That section was skimmed rather quickly. Sorry!
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