Legs Get Led Astray – Chloe Caldwell
I really will read pretty much anything I can get my hands on. This doesn’t always mean I will finish what I started, but I’m still game to try anything. However, when I see the words “a collection of essays” my immediate thoughts take me back to my high school Philosophy classes and being forced to read through pages and pages of mind-blowingly boring essays on the meaning of life based on what someone in the 18th century thought. Hence the reason behind me usually bypassing the “Essays” selection in the book store in favour of another section. This is why I am so glad that I picked up Chloe Caldwell’s Legs Get Led Astray and didn’t get sidetracked by the fact that it is a collection of essays.
Or that is what it is filed under. I don’t know if I would classify them as essays myself, more like short scenes from a life; images of moments in time, captured in words and set in stone on paper. Caldwell could be you or me, or anyone else in this city, or anyone else in any city around the world. The stories are not set in any real chronological order, but are slices of life, of growing up, of discovering oneself; of falling down and getting back up and of giving up and walking away.
Caldwell’s prose is extremely direct – she doesn’t hide anything under the rug or sugarcoat certain exploits or scenes: basically she tells it how it is or was and then moves on. Some characters or similar situations reappear in several different essays, some have real names, and some only have nicknames. There are drugs, sex, alcohol and music, lovers and friendships. There is New York City, the Hudson Valley, Seattle and Berlin. There are moments of running away and moments of facing the music, and all the moments come together quite seamlessly to create a picture of someone living a life, someone who could actually be you or me, or your best friend.
If you have lived in New York any time over the past 10 years there are scenes that you will directly relate to. When Caldwell describes standing on the balcony by the DJ booth at The Skinny, or looking for an affordable apartment in Greenpoint and going for the one that no one else wants, or hunting through the miles of aisles for a book at The Strand, you can see yourself doing exactly the same thing. Staying up all night and watching the sun rise while smoking a cigarette on a fire escape, who hasn’t done that? Although you don’t HAVE to be a New Yorker to enjoy this book – Caldwell’s writing should be enjoyed by everyone. Just because everyone can find a piece of themselves in it somewhere.