Visiting Writer Meghan Daum inspires with her essays

Sorell Grow | Staff Reporter | svgrow@butler.edu

Visiting Writer: Meghan Daum

“Life is mostly an exercise in being something other than what we used to be while remaining fundamentally — and sometimes maddeningly — who we are,” author Meghan Daum read, as the crowd simultaneously laughed in agreement with her statement.

wjvzgknu Photo Courtesy of Daum’s Twitter

Daum is an American essayist, columnist and author who currently lives in New York. She is best known for her opinion column in the LA Times, which she has been writing since 2005 and her two published essay collections, “My Misspent Youth” and “The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion.”

“These pieces are what’s closest to my purest artistic expression,” the writer said about her essays.

The last Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series event of the semester attracted a large crowd that filled the Reilly Room Tuesday evening, Nov. 29. Junior English major Blair Findlay introduced Daum to the stage.

“What makes her writing so remarkable is that it is achingly truthful,” Findlay said.

The first of the two essays Daum read is titled, “Not What It Used to Be.” The humorous and honest essay recounts stories from Daum’s life about nostalgia for younger years, the reality of adulthood, and how people change throughout life.

“You hardly ever know what to do, because you’ve hardly done anything.” Daum said. “I guess this is why wisdom is supposed to be the consolation prize of aging.”

The author sarcastically joked about how ‘dated” she was, because of certain things she references in her writing millennials probably wouldn’t understand. Daum’s unapologetic honesty and quick wit shined through in everything she read.

“How did I get to be middle-aged without actually growing up?” Daum read.

The essayist stood casually at the podium onstage and read her work to the crowd as if she were reading to a close friend—comfortably and genuinely.

The second and final essay Daum read is entitled “Invisible City”. She revealed how hesitant she was to write and publish this story about Nora Ephron, a close friend and mentor to Daum while she lived in Los Angeles. Daum decided to release the story after Ephron died in 2012.

“Invisible City” describes a dinner party Daum attended at Ephron’s home. The guests present included A-list stars such as Nicole Kidman, Steve Martin, and Rob Reiner, and Daum, who lacked any kind of celebrity status at the time.

Daum described herself as “the human embodiment of a fly-on-the-wall” at the dinner party. She said she felt unnoticed and unimportant among the millionaire Hollywood stars who surrounded her that night, yet she felt OK with that.

“Los Angeles is where I learned that your ability to see is sometimes only as good as your willingness to go unseen.” Daum read. “Eventually we all shake out into the thing we were supposed to be all along.”

The crowd laughed along with Daum as she described various awkward moments of the dinner party, including a game of Charades with the A-list movie stars, in her essay.

Daum concluded her reading with advice for current students wondering what to do with their lives.

“Do work that will lead you to interesting places,” she said.

The Writers Series will resume next semester on Jan. 23 with author Marlon James.

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