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Book Review: Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose

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Too Much and Not the Mood is inspired by – and named after- Virginia Woolf’s last entry in A Writer’s Diary by the same name.  The book itself stems from Woolf’s idea of writers having to tailor their work to a specific audience and the idea that this muffles the writer’s voice. Chew-Bose says,”I think it’s because writers let in other people’s voices a little too much, try to meet other people’s expectations and wants, and allow their anonymous audience to take over, and that can breed a lot of insecurity or a lot of doubt.  Too Much and Not the Mood is a rejection of tampering with the rawness of thought. It’s the pitter-patter of thought in the brain and the flow of ideas from the pen. This collection is given breath by Chew-Bose’s artful mastery of prose-like writing; a look into the din of her mind.

Chew-Bose describes the work as a home for the stories and ideas that she has carried about her family and her life, the restless din given rest. She covers a variety of topics from art to her experience as a person of color to her observations of people. She dubs the people like her as nook people; people who choose the nooks and crannies to tuck themselves into. The introverts who blend into the world and go unnoticed, who read and enjoy what isn’t really mainstream.  She offers insight into her life as a woman in the twenty-first century that translates into the rest of the world. Each essay is a different experience. “Heart Museum” is the continuous and ceaseless beating of the heart given syllables and thought. Too Much and Not The Mood has 74,400 words and no pictures, but is more vivid in color than anything you can compare it to.

This book has become to me a testament of the power that authenticity has. The book is a success because it is entirely Chew-Bose. She presents herself as human and that makes her and her stories relatable to any given audience. The limitations that are present when writing to a specific audience are not there and is wholeheartedly her. The book is about tapping into the inner voice that isn’t given freedom, mining into the past, and having the ability to explore unknown territory.

What I also love about the book is how it’s written. The writing takes on different forms as the book progresses from essay to essay but remains consistently her. The words flow together and she paints beautiful images. For example, a broken window is veined. And the propping of elbows on a table is an adverb. Its outside of the box thinking that defines her “essay-meets-prose” writing style. Chew-Bose says, “the best ideas outrun me. That’s why I write,” but this book is different. She caught up to herself.

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Book Review: Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose