Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 363

In her first collection of short stories, You Think It, I'll Say It, Curtis Sittenfeld illuminates the interior lives, ulterior anxieties, and contrasting desires of characters whom readers will likely recognize as charming, though flawed, caricatures of upper-middle-class citizens. Each of the book's ten chapters introduces a new set of characters whose lives from the outside appear pristine and perfect, if not also enviable. However, as readers spend time with these characters, they discover that everyone's life has a little more neuroticism and nuance than first impressions betray. As Sittenfeld invites readers to explore the lives of lawyers, Ivy League students, lifestyle influencers, and bored adulterers, she crafts a picture of contemporary American life wherein our thoughts and our words, our actions and our values, our intentions and our ambitions are always competing and rarely complementary.

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The juxtaposition between the lives people live publicly and the lives they live privately is summarily expressed in the book's title, You Think It, I'll Say It, which is explained in the second short story, "The World Has Many Butterflies." Julie and Graham, semi-strangers whose suburban lives routinely overlap, begin playing this game during a neighborhood get-together. Taking turns, they parse the subtle, passive-aggressive statements that one makes when clandestinely passing judgment, spreading gossip, or trying to inflate their own ego. However, in the game of "You Think It, I'll Say It," Julie and Graham interpret and restate these passive-aggressive statements with such unabashed candor that their comments go beyond gossip that feels "superficial, gratuitous, and mean." As Julie expresses, "talking to Graham felt sincere and only incidentally mean" because they are sharing thoughts and parts of themselves that they guard from others.

Though the game and the sharing it fosters seem to forge a connection between Graham and Julie, their relationship is ultimately as shallow and unfulfilling as other relationships because what we say and what we think can never fully and totally align in a way that makes our reality perfect or a perception of reality less flawed. Each story in this collection expounds upon the idea that all of who we are can never fully engage with the people or the world around us.

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