After I finished reading THE PISCES by Melissa Broder, I felt lighter and, in a way changed, which is also how I felt after reading Melissa’s So Sad Today. If you guys know me, you know I am a big fan of strange and weird reads, and this book is all that and more. Besides coloring outside the lines, what also impressed me about Melissa was her honesty, how she unapologetically and openly wrote about the ugliness most people often try to hide in order to seem normal or sane and the great lengths some go to seem that way, in fear of not being wanted if they are not. In The PISCES she puts all that and added a merman as a love interest to her narrator, which is what made this cleverly funny. I believe it is Melissa Broder’s humor, which is also evident in her personal essays, that prevents her writing from seeming melodramatic and more relatable.
In this book, we read from the perspective of Lucy, a 38-year-old grad student, right after her devastating break up with a man she has been with for years. The anxiety and depression that comes with the break up begins to eat at her making her unable to think or do anything that isn’t related to filling up her need for love and attention. Like most people who go through this, she begins to react to things in a self-destructive and aimless manner. Eventually her behavior leads her half-sister to offer Lucy some distraction by having Lucy temporarily move to her Venice Beach home to take care of her dog and home while she’s away. Lucy agrees to the distraction and even begins to attend therapy group sessions that focus on love and sex addiction, however, instead of opening herself to it’s guidance, she often contemptuously ridicules her peers. And so in her desperate desire to fill the empty void, she beginning to find men on Tinder, often neglecting everything else including her Sappho dissertation and even her sister’s diabetic pup. But still the Tinder men are not enough to fill the void, and she ends up at the beach at night alone contemplating her life, and there is where she meets a mysterious swimmer, Theo, who actually turns out to be a merman. The two fall for each other but not necessarily for good reasons.
Most people who speak of this book, often describe it as a story of a love affair between a woman and a merman, which yes, technically, it is, however, the bigger narrative here is Lucy’s struggle with anxiety and depression and how she deals with it. Yet, Theo isn’t a prop to her self-discovery either but more of a reflection, in a way, because Theo is also a being that is going through emotional anxiety as he is uncomfortable with his body and afraid of being unloved because of it. She finds in him the similar kind of need that she’s been struggling with throughout the book, however, she underestimates what Theo’s need asks of her.
Once I finished the book, I read other people’s reviews of this on Goodreads, and it annoyed me to see that those that gave this book less than three stars strongly dislike this book either because the protagonist is unlikable or because this book describes how Lucy prepares herself for anal sex by attempting to clean her butthole as best as possible or even how graphic the sex scenes are. They have missed the point of those scenes and the whole book, probably. While in those scenes you get to read what goes through Lucy’s mind while they are happening, we see how Lucy desperately and obsessively tries to put meaning into the nothingness. I am aware that writing about cleaning one’s butthole isn’t graceful nor “profound,” yet that is the beauty of Melissa’s writing, she tells it how it is, without sugar-coating anything so its easier to swallow. The fact that Lucy is going as far as she goes in that scene and, even in another scene where she buys hella expensive undergarments, is proof of her desperation to be perfect so some Tinder guy will find her to be a fantasy and, in turn, make Lucy feel wanted and needed. Yet just as we are privy to her thoughts before and while those scenes are happening, we are also privy to her thoughts afterwards, when she’s all alone by the beach, the moments where she feels even lonelier. Lucy isn’t perfect. She is human. The way Melissa paints her is very real and very human and I effing love that. As much as I can appreciate the elegance of Marcel Proust’s words, I can also appreciate the crudeness of Melissa Broder’s because both have purpose in their respective context.
Whether you agree or not, don’t hesitate to comment.
I’ll leave you guys to check out Melissa’s Twitter @SoSadToday where she writes little longing notes into the void.
Also I highly recommend her collection of personal essays which are a lot like THE PISCES.
Thank you all!
Thank you to Hogarth for sending an early copy upon request. #partner