27 December 2020

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale

I bought this book mostly because of the title. Meg and I both studied linguistics in undergrad and graduate school, and it is well known that I think Noam Chomsky is hot. I'll say off that top that this book only references Chomsky's political writing, there is absolutely nothing about linguistics in The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale. 

This book also caught my eye because it is neon green with yellow font. The author is pretty young and the book cover's aesthetic seems to reflects that. This is a medium sized read at 368 pages. Almost nothing happens in this book but I moved through it pretty quickly.

The book is entirely focused on Leda, who we first meet when she is an undergraduate student in Boston. The Noam Chomsky book follows Leda from college (where she bought it to impress a boy) until her death (still unread). It is mentioned maybe five or six times throughout the book whenever she is moving cities or changing houses. I found it a bit schticky, but I also get that people hold onto all sorts of things.

Leda meets a guy in Boston and they fall in love. After graduation she agrees to move with him to San Francisco for a tech job he got. They spend a few years there and she becomes increasingly lonely. She aspires to be a writer but her determination slowly starts to slip away from her. 

Of course she couldn't scream like this in public. No one would feel sorry for you and the sadness you carried around. This she knew. This was what you learned as a child when you'd cry on the floor of a public place and your mother would lean in and tell you to act normally."

Leda and John get engaged and eventually move back to Boston. There they move through new jobs, buy a house, have a child, and grow old together. As she gets older, Leda reflects more and more on her life and what passed her by. John isn't the great love of her life and she never finds any real success as an author. She loves her daughter and they remain close until the end of Leda's life.

I feel like this review is so robotic, but that's almost how the book felt. I did really appreciate how realistic everything felt. There's no massive and unheard of trauma, just simple things that many people deal with, like bad breakups, trouble conceiving, and unfilled dreams.

And as she stood beside the statue, her own reflection shimmered and warped in the glass case that protected art from humanity, she had an epiphany so brief and painful and so exhilaratingly true: The fundamental condition of womanhood is loneliness. As quickly as she realized it, she allowed it to pass over her. It was too late to do anything about it now."  

While I read reading this book I felt like I wasn't really enjoying it. The main reason would be that I found Leda to be incredibly annoying and unlikable. She is super shallow and judgmental, and complains about everything. Even as an adult I find her really petty and lame. 

The last handful of pages made me reconsider my overall review though .. Again, what I really enjoyed was that this book did feel like depiction of real life and real people. I don't think I would recommend it though because at the end of the day, while it's realistic, it just isn't compelling. 

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