Quick Read: The Unspeakable Talent of Meghan Daum

Literary critic David Kipen on what’s caught his eye

Writing smart, opinionated cultural commentary for the general reader, as Meghan Daum does for the Los Angeles Times, is like campaigning against a popular incumbent: He barely notices you, so your best hope is to make him mad. The Unspeakable, Daum’s book of original, self-lacerating essays—on subjects like almost hating her mother, almost having a child, and almost dying—is a sharp reminder of what a gift to the city she is. In her unrepentant defense of not cooking, she exhibits her characteristic wisdom: “If you’re good at something, do it a lot. If you’re bad at something, just don’t do it.” Daum is brilliant at probing the shared taboos of a society that thinks it has none. She should trust her Times readers to appreciate the intelligence that’s so robustly on display in The Unspeakable.