by Katy Kapelle
I’m not a mother, I’m not married, I’m not a liberal, I don’t do yoga, and my parents are not separated.
And yet, I understand intimately what it is like to be all of these things. I know what it is like to be a liberal mother of one or two children, the married younger child of two people in an open marriage.
How do I understand this life I have no chance of ever understanding without having lived it?
Thank Claire Dederer. Thank “Poser,” the national bestselling book about what it is to be all of these things.
The “Horizon” occasionally receives books for review, which I try to read, and desultorily give up on, and they are resigned to the never-to-be-looked-at-again shelf. “Poser” was different. I picked up this book, flipped to the middle to see how dreadful it was, and looked up an hour later, the rest of my mail still unopened on the table in front of me.
I was surprised to be in the newsroom. Really, I ought to be on Stuart Island, playing in the sand and rocks of the beach, watching for my mother’s boyfriend’s tugboat to come back from “marine ambulance chasing,” blissfully unaware of the rest of my life, just for that moment.
“Poser” is that good.
I was at a loss to describe it. It’s a book about a woman who has children and does yoga. It should be boring, but it is as interesting a book as I have read in a long while, and I read a lot of books.
Perhaps it is the perfectionist and the worrier in Dederer to which I relate, or the child of Northwest Washington, or even the woman who is afraid to lift her feet off the ground in crow pose, and fly.
The problem with classifying “Poser” is that it fits into so many categories. Picador books classified it as a memoir, which it most certainly is, but it is also a self-help book, and an anthropological look at North Seattle moms, and a deeply philosophical book about human nature. The really cool thing is that tries to be none of these things. It just is.
By the chapter called “Foot behind the head pose,” I was so in tune with Dederer that everything in my life, which had unwittingly snuck up beside me and was now breathing over my shoulder and down my neck, that all the little hairs began to rise on my skin, from the bottom up.
“Stillness. I was in it now, and it was scary,” Dederer writes. “There was nothing I could do to solve this. All I could do was be with it. There was just this discomfort.”
She is talking about sitting on the floor with her foot behind her head, but that isn’t all she is talking about. She’s talking about life. It’s these metaphors, which are so natural because they come from the almost-unconscious mind, that make this book feel like an old friend who knows all your secrets, but never taunts you about them. She just loves you, and helps you see how you can be better, how you can let go of your fear, and rise into crow, and fly.