17 July 2009

Book Review: A Year in Van Nuys

Every week, I meet with my new friend Joleen for a cup of coffee (sometimes a sample cup of Trader Joe's coffee) to discuss the all important questions of life direction, job search status, and ideas. We've been meeting for about 2 months and I have to say, we've hit our stride.

Yesterday, she suggested that I write a book about my life living in the OC and she gave enough compelling reasons that I decided to give it some serious thought and read this other book I had seen in the bookstore for ideas: A Year in Van Nuys by Sandra Tsing Loh.

I've come to admire Sandra's writing recently for its wit and humor and ability to make me laugh a lot. J. checked out A Year in Van Nuys from the library for me and I finished it in two sittings. And here is what I have to say about this book (published in 2001).
  • It's really really really funny. I laughed a lot, especially in the beginning.
  • I was surprised at how much I related to her experiences. (Do L.A. freelance writers really have that much in common?)
  • She is so self-deprecating and revealing! How does she still have friends?
  • The ending does totally peter out and only worth skimming as many Amazon.com reviewers write.
  • It is a writer's writer kind of book. It's all about her writing life and how much it sucked that year.
  • It almost made me want to quit all this freelance business and study for the LSATs and be happy having stable income.
  • Most importantly, it was a case study on exactly what not to do if you want to be sane and happy and be a writer.

Here's what her painful stories reinforced:
  1. Get a life and get out or you will end up stuck in your bedroom for 3 years with writer's block and loathing self-pity.
  2. Read the Ennegram, Type 4. Learn how to deal with envy or it will destroy you.
  3. Have a regular practice of taking yourself lightly, forgiving yourself, and working on loving others.
  4. Have a regular practice of centering, whether that be prayer, photography, or something else.
  5. Do anything constructive to regularly get out of your head and your own thoughts.
  6. Be a contemplative.
  7. Be kind and serve others.
  8. Live fully in the moment.
  9. Do Welcoming Prayer a lot.
  10. And the list could keep going on.
I wouldn't use her book as a model for a book on living in the OC but overall, a quick enjoyable read. Some parts--her agony, her self-loathing, her moans--were a bit too negative and not funny enough to bear but all the other stuff, the parts when she really is spot on, hilarious, and you actually realize this is all useful info to help you avoid the same mistakes--well, that's nice.

For the complete opposite of Sandra Tsing Loh, check out The Happiness Project. This woman has a law degree and is writing a book about being happy.


  1. I'm a total 4 on the Enneagram and I love the HAPPINESS PROJECT!

    You, well, YOU ROCK!

    I miss our time together so much!

    One more week in Korea. I'm in Pohang. It's beautiful here, but hot and muggy! ;-)

    And I just met someone named Joleen a few weeks ago. She is a prof at Cal Poly. Unusual name, so that stood out to me in your post as well. It's awesome to meet with friends regularly.

  2. Shelia, I forgot you're in Korea! I hope you're liking the food because I think that's the best part!