By David Nilsen
Melissa Broder is screwed up, and she’d like to tell you about it. In her new book So Sad Today, Broder vomits onto the page as much of her own neuroses, angst, existential dread, and self-loathing as possible. Oh, and speaking of vomit, she talks about that too; specifically, her fetish surrounding it. The book is a catalog of Broder’s dysfunction.
So Sad Today emerged from a very successful Twitter account of the same name, which Broder started and ran anonymously for a few years before outing herself as the person behind the account. @SoSadToday is a brilliant piece of internet-era expression, melding irony, bitterly dark humor, confession, and existential self-loathing and self-obsession into short statements that capture what it is to be young, intelligent, and depressed as hell. Some recent tweets include, “in an open relationship with existence,” and, “i have a headache, probably from the lack of explicit meaning in life.” The account has acquired a tremendous following, and after Broder stepped forward as the mind behind the funny but grave tweets, she turned her ironic confessions into longer-form prose.
In So Sad Today, Broder is not really interested in making you like her despite her issues (of course, on some level, it’s all she’s interested in at any point in life). She doesn’t present her mental and emotional health problems in a cute and huggable way. She is not Jenny Lawson. Broder seems to be intentional about removing any soft surface on her confessions that would render them more touchable, more charming. She speaks plainly about her neurotic obsessions, her sexual fetishes, her self-absorption, and if you want to laugh along with her at herself, you’re welcome to, but she’s fully aware you might not. In an essay about anxiety and the fluctuating levels of power it has had over her during her life, she talks about a period in which her panic attacks were increasing in frequency and crippling her ability to function in daily life. During this time, a woman told her she liked her writing because she wasn’t “whiny.” Broder interprets this as meaning that the woman likes her “funny mask,” the humor she uses to make her problems seem quirky and endearing rather than dark and overwhelming. But her anxiety and depression are threatening to strip her of her funny mask and reveal that she is really, sincerely not okay. She laments this loss of control over the outward presentation of her problems, and says:
“If I’m going to alienate you, I want to curate that alienation. I want to craft the persona that turns you off. I don’t want the real me, my vulnerabilities and humanity, to leak out and make you run. I don’t want to have needs.” – page 151
This book is Broder refusing herself the mask of curating our alienation. In the process, she will absolutely turn many readers off. For some, the contents of this document will be a bridge too far. Unvarnished sexual fetishes (not the mass-market kink that gets passed off as fetishism), the brand of naked and unrelenting self-loathing that is the opposite of charming, acute self-focus that doesn’t pretend it cares about its friends more than it does about itself, a fantasy life of romantic obsessions that a junior higher wouldn’t admit to: these things are not cute. They are problematic, and they are socially abrasive. But they are also real, and some of us see ourselves in various of these neuroses. The bravery (god, what a cheap word, and one I’m sick of reading and writing, but it’s earned here) of these confessions is only registered after the fact when we reflect on the singularity of this book. There is a way we are allowed to publicly cop to our problems and a way we are not. One is charming, the other transgressive. Melissa Broder knows we’re all going to die someday, suspects there’s no point to the life that precedes that outcome, and doesn’t give a damn about the right and wrong way to vomit one’s neuroses into the void.
Some of you will hate this book. Some of you shouldn’t read it, and after reading this review, probably wouldn’t even consider doing so. That’s fine, I guess. If you can’t see yourself in any of this book, you probably shouldn’t read it. But some of you should. Some of you will see yourself in part or all of this book. Let’s get drinks, because I can’t remember the last time a book emotionally affected me as much as So Sad Today.
So Sad Today is available now at Greenville Public Library.