I'll Tell You In Person

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Chances are, Chloe Caldwell will never be a major writer, someone who can put a whole country on trial in a single work. She’s too self-absorbed and confessional for that, too limited in scope and sensibility, at her best only when writing in a personal vein. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be read with pleasure. For proof, pick up I’LL TELL YOU IN PERSON, a collection of twelve essays published by Coffee House Press.

In each of the essays, the 31-year-old Caldwell writes about her “feelings and observations” in a cheeky, irreverent and “New Age Girl” kind of way (she even quotes from the Deadeye Dick song: “She don’t eat meat but she sure likes the bone.”) No topic is off-limits or taboo: Caldwell talks openly about masturbation, blow jobs, acne, boy and girl friends, making bad choices in life (“I fucked up 18 times and I’m about to do it again”), binge-eating, doing weed, heroin, coke and Ecstasy, her party-girl behavior and bouts of depression, the way she used to mischievously stroke a boy’s leg to give him an erection in class and embarrass him.

What also emerges from this wicked self-portrait is her capacity for friendship and love, her abiding sense of humor, her deft way with language. Caldwell might be playing in a minor key but she does it with flair and finesse.