Here’s a secret about me: I try to read a self-help book at all times. I know they have a reputation for being corny and overly simple, and that many people probably think I should feel embarrassed admitting that some part of me constantly feels like it’s looking for help, but the right self-help books do help. I’ve found that a daily stream of genuinely inspirational text buoys me, distancing me from the constantly lurking sinkhole of fear and despair.
Here’s another secret about me: Sometimes I buy books because Amazon.com’s algorithm recommends them to me and they have nice covers. That’s why I bought Normal Gets You Nowhere, at least. I had no clue who Kelly Cutrone was (I now know she does public relations for couture fashion design brands), but I liked the cover and description of the book so much that I ordered it immediately. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.
Years ago, I decided I was no longer going to celebrate Thanksgiving and said so to my boyfriend at the time. We had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: “Thanksgiving is a celebration of nothing more than capitalism. Think about it. Two days off of work—one to binge-eat dead animals and another to binge-shop gifts no one needs for yet another holiday with a bogus meaning.”
My boyfriend: Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.
Me: “Do schools still teach kids that Pilgrims and ‘Indians’ were friends?! It’s garbage revisionist history! And we celebrate it every year without question!”
My boyfriend: Rolling his eyes and speaking as if his last strand of patience is being slowly and painfully frayed. “Can’t you just enjoy having time off of work? How are you going to refuse to celebrate, by going in on your days off?”
Me: “I don’t know. It just don’t want to be part of it anymore.”
My boyfriend: “Ugh. What’s so awful about spending time with family? Can’t you just enjoy things sometimes?”
His frustration shamed me. Why couldn’t I just enjoy things sometimes? What was so wrong with celebrating food, family, and thankfulness? I didn’t have to eat turkey. No one was forcing me to shop on Black Friday. He sounded so reasonable, and I felt so ridiculous. I pretended I never brought it up, and continued celebrating Thanksgiving. No more!
I felt so happy when I came across this Thanksgiving-related passage in Normal Gets You Nowhere: “That’s when I started thinking honestly about the fact that every year, hundreds of millions of Americans sit around and eat turkeys to celebrate our annihilation of an entire race of people. […] Can you imagine what the Indian kids must be thinking? It would be like everyone in New York City having cake for Hitler’s birthday!”
After finding out Cutrone shares my Thanksgiving-related concerns and deciding I’m not simply a curmudgeon, I wanted to run out in the street with my middle fingers up, shouting, “I’ll never celebrate Thanksgiving again!”
While reviewing a self-help book isn’t conventional for a lit mag, weirderary isn’t a conventional lit mag and Normal Gets You Nowhere isn’t a conventional self-help book. Unlike many self-help authors, Cutrone doesn’t promise any grand reward of money, love, or happiness if you follow her advice. She acknowledges that life is and will always be difficult, and urges readers to move their attention from trying to feel good or obtain success to being honest, feeling compassion, and giving back to the community. Cutrone’s message is essentially to do your own thing, listen to and trust your inner voice, and live in accordance with your true desires and values. This message is in the same spirit weirderary was founded upon.
Cutrone followed her own advice while writing Normal Gets You Nowhere. She manages to pull unconventional moves such as dropping the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its entirety into a chapter and sharing a link for a website where people can make living wills for free without making the text overly scattered or disjointed. Her anecdotes include family members, former employees, the homeless, her spiritual gurus (The Mother and Amma), and rock stars that Cutrone knows personally (Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and David Lee Roth). She is definitely allowing her weirdness to shine and guide her life.