This Is Running for Your Life: Essays

Michelle Orange. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-53332-8

In this whip-smart, achingly funny collection, film critic Orange (The Sicily Papers) trains her lens on aging, self-image, and the ascendancy of the marketing demographic, among other puzzles of the Facebook generation. In one standout essay, she chronicles the battles behind the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Hawaii’s war memorial “adventure” packages and sunny tourist boutiques serve as fitting backdrops for her chronicle of a psychiatry convention caught up in Big Pharma’s lucrative cult of the brand name. Other essays are deeply personal: in an account of a grim nursing home visit, Orange recalls how the movies forged her bond with a grandmother made distant by periodic depressions—and, in turn, how their visits to the cinema when she was young shaped Orange’s love for the movies. In another meditation, she traces the parallel escape routes film and running offered in college, as she struggled for a sense of self. Other topics include the evolution of the “dream girl,” the romance of the tragedy-driven artist, and the unsettling birth of “neurocinema,” a market research technique based on MRI scans. Though a travel memoir on Beirut falls out of step with the other pieces, this only testifies to the overall coherence of a collection whose voice feels at once fresh and inevitable. Agent: Melissa Flashman, Trident Media Group. (Feb.)