Rachel Shukert's new memoir Everything Is Going To Be Great does something unfortunately rare in women's writing: celebrating mistakes.
Everything tracks Shukert's often disastrous early-20s sojourn in Amsterdam, with detours into her also generally disastrous early adulthood in the States. She cops early on to her clumsiness, both literal — she once "smashed my face into the cement floor of a Schlotzsky's deli in Omaha" — and figurative — in the book, she repeatedly gets drunk, says the wrong things, and sleeps with the wrong guys. A representative encounter:
"You left your driver's license at his house," Daphne continued. "He found it on the floor of his bedroom. He said it must've fallen out of your purse when you were looking for a condom."
"We used a condom? I said. "That's good news."
"Apparently, it happened on your birthday," Daphne continued. "He knew when he saw your driver's license. He thought it was kind of weird you didn't say anything."
I felt queasy. "The guy I slept with had an accent. I swear to God he had a European accent."
Daphne snorted. "He does have an accent. From Dallas."
"I can't believe this," I said. "I'm sure I asked him if he was European. This is terrible."
"What are you upset about?" Daphne pressed. "Because you didn't recognize him, or because he isn't European?"
Shukert's accounts of her sexual peccadilloes (she also takes up with a much older, anti-Semitic Austrian and a scary Italian casanova) may fall into the category of writing Emily Gould described as "Oh goofy me, taking pratfalls," but the way she presents them is funny and, moreover, kind of reassuring. Yes, if I were Shukert's mother (who makes frequent and occasionally heartwarming appearances in the pages of Everything), I would probably warn her that some of her escapades put her in harm's way. But I'm not her mom, and as a woman of Shukert's generation, I'm kind of relieved to read a book that's basically the opposite of a cautionary tale.