You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Summary

You Think It, I'll say It is a collection of ten short stories in which author Curtis Sittenfeld explores and inevitably deconstructs assumptions about race, gender, and class via the interpersonal relationships that aspire to transgress such societal distinctions. The common through-line connecting these stories is the notion that what we think we know about a person is often leagues away from the actual truth of that person, yet we base our interpersonal interactions on assumptions—requiring very little effort—versus effortful investigation and corresponding deconstruction of these assumptions. For example, in "The World Has Many Butterflies," the protagonist, Julie, at first assumes that her husband's married colleague, Graham, is interested only in friendship, though over time she comes to suspect this interest has turned romantic, as it has for her. The course of her actions to follow is based on this erroneous assumption of romantic intent, inevitably resulting in humiliation, shame, and deep regret.

Additional stories can thematically be summarized as things are very rarely as they seem. In "Vox Clamantis in Deserto," an Ivy League student stricken with paralyzing shyness envies a fellow student, outgoing and popular, assuming her to have the life of her dreams, only to learn it is more like a nightmare. Similarly, in "The Prairie Wife," an unhappy housewife, feeling trapped in her own life, begins to suspect that the seemingly wholesome nature of an old friend's marriage is not so wholesome as it appears, essentially growing morally bankrupt as she habitually fantasizes about revealing this friend as a fake.

Notions of personal power as threatened by the presence of others is also at work in stories such as "The Regular Couple," in which a seemingly confident female lawyer dissolves into hysteria at the sight of a woman who once tormented her in high school.

Things are not what the seem, indeed, yet it is the weight that we give to assuming they are precisely as they seem that often unravels us.