Becoming Duchess Goldblatt: A Memoir by Duchess Goldblatt
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: July 7, 2020
Genres: Book Clubs, Debut, Humor, Memoir, Non-fiction
After eight years of writing reviews it feels as if the time for ‘firsts’ is long past, but here I am today with a first. I’ve never read or reviewed a book by an anonymous author before, but Becoming Duchess Goldblatt is just that. It’s the memoir of Duchess Goldblatt, a fictitious 81-year-old literary icon known for her wry, cajoling presence on Twitter. She has almost 40,000 followers, of whom I am one. Becoming Duchess Goldblatt is her story. More importantly it’s the story of the real woman behind her who took a low point in her life to find not only Duchess, but herself.
Anonymous was an editor for a publishing company whose job and marriage disappeared around the same time. Neither was amicable, with the marriage’s demise leaving her blindsided, without a home, and fighting for custody of her 8-year-old son. She was at a low point, with friends choosing sides, colleagues gone, and an uncertain future.
All I can tell you is that in my heart, in my mind, in my spirit: I broke. I broke into pieces. There are only tiny shards left now, a mosaic almost pretty if the pattern weren’t so irregular, in place of what was whole.
She wanted somewhere to express herself, to connect with people again, but also knew being open on social media would be a problem personally and professionally. So, she created Duchess Goldblatt—an author from Klein, Texas with a bestselling advice book about mothers and daughters called Not if I Kill You First. She resides in Crooked Path, New York, which is both near NYC and Canada. Words are her currency and she uses them wisely, doling out 140 characters of humor, encouragement, and literary imagery that makes my word-nerd heart smile.
Not until people start seeing typos eating out of their garbage cans at night will they regret hunting proofreaders almost to extinction.
Duchess wasn’t created for Anonymous to vent rage. Instead, she emerged from the loneliness left behind when, at a certain age, the life you’ve worked for and love is gone. It was a death, compounded by losing time with her little boy, with whom she has a strong bond. Duchess is the odd thoughts that pop into our heads when we wake up in the middle of the night, see the ocean, cry over a song we haven’t heard in decades.
Don’t let anyone shame you for your love of an imaginary friend. Religions have been founded on less.
Becoming Duchess Goldblatt traces Anonymous’s journey from who she thought she was to who she is. Along the way, her real love of Lyle Lovett was shared on her Twitter feed and led to her meeting Lyle in real life. He is one of the few people who knows who she actually is, which is mind-boggling in this day and age. Her account is followed by any number of big names in the publishing world and no names, like me, who simply find her pithy thoughts to be a balm when the crazy of reality presses too hard.
As I was reading Becoming Duchess Goldblatt I was reminded of another memoir I loved—Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. Written by a therapist, it intertwines her story with the story of some of her patients. Its honesty and her ability to convey hard-won wisdom even as she’s navigating her own personal problems made for reading that pinged me. I felt the same way about Anonymous. Duchess is fantastical. She exists in perfect tidbits of language, while for much of her life Anonymous is struggling mightily with issues we all face—loss, uncertainty, feeling unworthy, loneliness. By embracing a fictitious persona, she goes from feeling alone and lost to rediscovering herself.
I’ll never be friends with a celebrity, but it’s not impossible to think I’ve met Anonymous. Or been seated next to her. Chatted in line at the airport. The point of Duchess was not to vent about a dark period in her life, it was to let loose her inner voice without the fear of discovery or judgement. Duchess Goldblatt is a creative amalgam of heart, intellect, experience, and humor. She soothes without being sickly sweet. More importantly, the woman behind the incandescent Duchess is just as lovely, but she’s real. She makes Becoming Duchess Goldblatt a gift for book lovers and all of us who are feeling wobbly these days.
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