The following is a compliment: After reading Jill Sherer Murray's chapbook, Diary of a Writer in Mid-Life Crisis, I can honestly say that her husband is a saint, a prince among men for putting up with the author's neuroses and foibles. And, by way of comparison, Diary also made me realize that my wife must also be a saint for putting up with my own writerly quirks. Sure, I don't wake my wife up in the middle of the night (as Jill does to her husband) to obsess over whether we have too many throw-pillows, but I definitely empathize with nearly every agonizing dark night of the soul through which Jill suffers (with wit and charm) throughout this short, funny, warm and at times heartbreaking book.
Composed of entries from Jill's widely-read blog on WildRiverReview.com, Jill's Diary is part In Her Shoes, part Marely and Me, and part Taxi Cab Confessions (without the cab). That many of the passages take place in some of my favorite restaurants in New Hope, PA, is certainly a plus for me, and the fact that she speaks so freely about her own misgivings as a writer -- the doubt, the procrastination, the desire to write, the struggles with writer's block -- takes some of the mystique away from the writing life. Indeed, this may be why the book works so well. It's pretty common to find books on how to conquer the publishing world by people who have already done so, but it's tough to find books about "the struggle" by people who are currently caught up in it: the struggle to write, the struggle to find an audience, the daily struggle of sitting down at a computer (or typewriter, if you're so inclined) and staring at the blank screen. Although Jill is a successful writer in her own right -- she has published many articles in national magazines over the years -- it's her desire to become a working novelist that moves the book forward, and her realization that there's much more to life than writing that lends the book its emotional core.
One final note: If you happen to pick up this book, don't read the entry for April 21, 2006, right before you're about to address a large audience, teach a class or do anything that might require you to maintain at least a modicum of composure. It's a very Marley and Me sequence, and I made the mistake of reading it just minutes before heading off to teach a section of Freshman Composition. By the end of class, there wasn't a dry eye in the place.
More information on Diary of a Writer in Midlife Crisis is available at www.jillsherermurray.com.