You Think It, I'll Say It gives sustained, compassionate attention to the middle-aged women of middle America ... Her imagination is not fantastical; it is empathetic. She has a vision that ensures an inner life and a backstory that's equally convincing for Laura Bush (whose life she borrowed for American Wife) or the parents in the carpool ... That empathetic imagination is one of the defining features of Sittenfeld's fiction, along with the unfashionable valuing of workaday family relationships over glamor or romance, and unpretentious, deprecating wit that's never cruel — or at least never for long.
The title of Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest, You Think It, I’ll Say It, comes from its second story ... In it, two parents who socialize casually at their children’s shared school activities begin a private game to alleviate the boredom of another interminable soccer practice or bake sale. The only rules are wild speculation and brutal honesty ... It’s nasty and thrilling and it leads to trouble, at least for one of them. It’s also exactly the kind of scene Sittenfeld (Prep, Eligible) excels at: People smart enough to know better, and human enough to realize they can’t help it ... The majority of Think’s 10 tales (which have already been optioned for an Apple series produced by Reese Witherspoon and starring Kristen Wiig) center on a certain kind of Midwestern middle-class ennui — characters soured but not completely defeated by the Grand Canyon-size gap between expectation and reality.
Curtis Sittenfeld has a keen ear for insidiously withering remarks and an abiding empathy for their vulnerable targets. Her first collection of stories may not be groundbreaking but the 10 tales in You Think It, I’ll Say It are impressive nonetheless, at once psychologically acute, deftly crafted and deeply pleasurable ... Sittenfeld has a bead on the insecurities and bruised feelings that linger decades after high school. She’s particularly attuned to women who still feel the residue of pain from not having been pretty or cool enough to have landed on the popular kids’ mattering map ... You Think It, I’ll Say It is filled with tales that take us in surprising directions, causing characters — and readers — to re-examine their assumptions, pieties, elitism and bad behavior.
Masterfully plotted and often further gilded with mirthful twists, Sittenfeld’s short-form works (half of which are published here for the first time) are every bit as smart, sensitive, funny, and genuine as her phenomenally popular novels.
You Think It, I’ll Say It is a fine book, full of serendipitous wit and unexpected pathos. In Sittenfeld’s world...the present is full of pitfalls but also open to joy. The past is usually a lie. The stories are often droll as the author pokes fun at herself and her friends while at the same time taking all concerned as seriously as they deserve.
In the lives of Sittenfeld’s characters, the lusts and disappointments of youth loom large well into middle age, as insistent as a gang of loud, showy teenagers taking up all the oxygen in the room ... These storytellers are, for the most part, a privileged, educated lot. Their trials, in the grand scheme of things, are manageable enough that they allow easily for comedy, which Sittenfeld is a pro at delivering in the details ... But Sittenfeld doesn’t shy away from poking at the soft spots of a person’s psyche, the painful longings for something exquisite to cut through the ennui of even the most comfortable lives.
Sittenfeld is at her best where gender meets class, trafficking in the minor humiliations of fictional women who often self-sabotage, or at least overthink. Yet her stories are not polemical ... Sittenfeld’s characters are grown-ups, neither saints nor sinners. Instead, she shows how privilege can lead to 'likability,' whereas facing diffuse unverifiable biases can lead to a kind of petty insecurity ... These insights may seem dark, but Sittenfeld’s writing is also terribly funny.
One of the occasional failures of the kind of contemporary fiction based on the dynamics and currents of social and domestic relationships is that the characters, figuratively speaking, all sound the same ... Sittenfeld’s tableaux and their inhabitants don’t feel like that: they are much less tidy and, consequently, riskier. They explore what are frequently unresolvable tensions, especially between women ... Alongside this knotty subject matter are more straightforwardly light moments ... Despite its foreboding title – 'Bad Latch' – it’s a story fuelled by the acceptance of imperfection and, tellingly, it ends with one woman telling another her name.
Sittenfeld’s collection speaks to how even happy lives can be underscored by conflict and unease. These are short stories that show how self-doubt can lead to mistrust and deception that wrecks relationships. But Sittenfeld’s prose makes them a treat — there’s something about, to borrow a phrase, 'the purity of her cynicism,' and the clarity of her characters’ open desires.
Sittenfeld often employs the narrative technique of characters confronting their pasts, particularly in the form of high school experiences haunting the present. This is not surprising ... Indeed, my one criticism of the collection would be that Sittenfeld doesn’t push beyond her comfort zone ... Sittenfeld is a consummate professional, every page of this book as engaging as the next.
Sittenfeld creates 11 short and sharp vignettes, consistently jolting us from any sort of comfort zone in her quest to uproot assumptions ... Sittenfeld demonstrates a gift for weaving the banal into the culturally significant, making this collection a touchstone for the present day.
...a breezy collection of short stories about not a whole lot. There are no cliffhangers or gasp-worthy twists in Curtis Sittenfeld’s world of mostly white, generally professional-class middle America ... Give it a few pages, however, and like a Trojan Horse wrapped in Midwestern nice, this Cincinnati, Ohio-born, St. Louis, Mo.-based writer’s latest release is discomforting, disturbing and chock full of the kind of one-liners that require a digestion break ... you won’t be able to stop thinking about it, talking about it, imploring everyone you know to please hurry up and read this story or that one so you can debrief what went down ... The make-you-squirm accuracy with which she nails her mostly female narrators’ inner lives makes you wonder if she’s had your own internal monologue wearing a wire.
There’s a nakedness to Curtis Sittenfeld ’s short stories. Never showily literary, her prose is more confessional, laid bare ... The stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It feel so contemporary that we might worry they will date — except that we’ll want a record of these times ... The immediacy of these stories makes them effortlessly enjoyable to slide into, like new garments so comfortable that you decide to wear them out of the shop.
...Curtis Sittenfeld’s debut short story collection has a dishy feel, and that’s a compliment ... Sittenfeld proves adept at quickly establishing characters in whom the reader feels inclined to invest immediately ... Sittenfeld makes writing lively and diverting fiction look easy, though each deceptively simple and breezy story is masterfully paced and crafted ... The reader leaves the book delighted to have gotten to hear Sittenfeld say just what she really thinks.
Sittenfeld’s stories often turn on clever timing: a perfectly paced misstep, a revelation ... The downside, oddly, is exactly what makes this collection work: its narrow focus. Her world (like Jane Austen’s) is brilliantly accurate, and culturally limited ... impossible to put down.
Curtis Sittenfeld is an astute observer of the lives of comfortable people and of those who aspire to levels of security that have been thus far unattainable ... If a couple of the pieces here aren't fully realized, the collection still showcases Sittenfeld's gifts for scrutinizing the psyches of the privileged and for sifting through the shards of the wreckage when that tablecloth gets pulled away ... Most of the pieces in this collection, however, are magnificent.
The bestselling author’s short fiction debut nails the current zeitgeist, both in America and in women’s interior lives. In the pages of this smart, savvy collection, we find Gen X and Millennial women struggling to come to terms with the personal and the political ... It’s a fascinating portrait of contemporary women’s lives, drawn with frankness, humour, compassion and skill.
...excellent ... Sittenfeld has specialised in reserved, watchful narrators who want desperately to fit in, even as they pass judgement on those around them ... Even in the stories narrated in the third person, Sittenfeld never allows us into the consciousness of any characters other than her protagonists. She’s interested in the expectations and values of social worlds, but specifically as they are navigated by a single individual ... We see a number of overwhelmed mothers, but these women are very different from the feminist writer-mothers recognisable from recent works by Jenny Offill, Elena Ferrante and Elisa Albert: Sittenfeld’s women are mourning the loss of romance and adventure from their lives.
I get a kick out of Curtis Sittenfeld ... The novelist (Eligible, American Wife, Prep) is a sharp observer of human nature and human relationships — especially the male/female variety — and she’s a hoot ... Sitting on the sidelines, observing these human foibles, the reader gets to vicariously play the 'You Think It, I’ll Say It' game. It’s a lot of fun, even when it makes you wince.
Sittenfeld's stylistic prose is always wryly satirical in its observations of the many facets of human nature. Overall, her fiction has specialized in a particular milieu: the educated, urban, middle-class, Midwestern white woman ... The women in these stories are not necessarily likable but they are honest about their inabilities to let the past remain in the past ... This is definitely much-needed in contemporary literature where the middle-aged woman is still not being explored as a fully-realized and complicated individual with her own needs and desires.
In her thoroughly satisfying first collection, Sittenfeld (Eligible) spins magic out of the short story form ... As in her novels, Sittenfeld’s characters are funny and insightful. Reading these consistently engrossing stories is a pleasure.
Sittenfeld adroitly threads themes of disenchantment and perplexity through a group of stories whose characters, despite their reasonably secure middle-class professional status, share a feeling that their lives haven’t turned out the way they expected. Occasionally the plotting can be a little pat ... Sittenfeld’s own perspective throughout is compassionate without being sentimental, hopeful without being naïve. The way we live now, assessed with rue and grace.