cover image Tonight I’m Someone Else: Essays

Tonight I’m Someone Else: Essays

Chelsea Hodson. Holt, $17 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-250-17019-4

In this mixed debut collection, Hodson explores “the possibility of ruin, which is always present,” in romance, art, and consumerism. Skillful description often takes the place of emotion in her writing, resulting in affectless exercises that reveal her fearless and sometime reckless curiosity, but don’t analyze it. Hodson’s best essays are those that are most narratively cohesive. “Pity the Animal” finds a relationship between bodily commodification and alienation by documenting Hodson’s experience with fashion modeling and flirtation with working as an escort for a “sugar daddy” website that was “quite clearly, a loophole for prostitution.” “I’m Only a Thousand Miles Away” observes obsession through her adolescent experience of being a boy-band fan and being the object of a stalker. “Small Crimes” details a platonic summer fling at age 13 with the cool girl at camp, a friendship that only existed because it had an “expiration date we both silently agreed to.” These essays offer emotional heft and immersive storytelling. It’s difficult to invest in other selections, though, particularly those about her relationships in later adolescence and in adulthood, since they tend to rely on opacity in place of specificity. Though even in the weakest entries Hodson produces some insight and humor, she is at her best working in more disciplined, narrative forms—an approach she embraces too rarely. (June)