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Book review: 'For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs,' by Kathleen Rooney

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

FOR YOU, FOR YOU I AM TRILLING THESE SONGS

By Kathleen Rooney

Counterpoint. 244 pp. Paperback, $14.95

"I don't know what I'm in the process of becoming," Kathleen Rooney concludes after contemplating her bikini wax in this uneven essay collection that glorifies its author's 20-something ennui. "I just know that I'm going there with very little hair down there." A self-satisfied celebration of painful grooming is a suspect vehicle for trumpeting one's feminism. But Rooney -- a poet, essayist and sometime composition teacher who wrote "Reading with Oprah: The Book Club that Changed America" and a related piece for this newspaper -- is not at her best when self-congratulatory, but rather when fighting mad.

"Give me your tense shifts, your misspellings, and your passive verbs," she writes in "I Will Catch You," a biting condemnation of plagiarism from a professor who prefers flawed original prose to stolen work; this piece should be required reading for any new college student -- and Joe Biden. Beltway insiders may prefer Rooney's gossipy take on working as an aide for a U.S. senator. But it's Rooney's angrier writing -- grappling with her cousin's decision to become a nun, or her own retreat home to Chicago after a failed stint as a teacher in the Northwest -- that suggest this very young author will outlast her quarter-life crisis.

-- Justin Moyer


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