Letters to Kelly Clarkson is full of short letters written from the narrator to American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, beginning with “Dear Kelly.” Although there were certainly thoughts and points that stuck out as interesting to me, the majority of the letters were ungrounded and rambling. A letter at the beginning of the book opens with: “You know, sitting here, eating my microwaved tomatoes on somewhat tough toast, I think I could give myself another chance.” And I started silently cheering, we all deserve a second chance! Good for you! But then the next lines were: “Seriously, can you tell me why I keep dreaming of a chipped white truck? Could it be the swerve of it, the handle? A rush of blood to the hand.” I was so intrigued by the second chance that I wanted to know all the details of how she messed up and with whom and how she was planning to fix it. Yet there was no resolution for me and I felt like the writer had left me high and dry, though perhaps this was her intention.
Despite the lack of specifics, there were fantastic metaphors and comparisons in the book. For example: “At the piano recital, I hear the Yamaha sing out its cheap thick notes, the trick of wide keys’ spreading their legs. I want to think you’re grander than that, not coated in black gloss so shiny I can see the piano’s pores flex and extend.” I loved the play on words, especially “trick.” Clearly, the narrator looks up to Kelly. She wants her to be honest and pure, not fooling the public and fan base with tricks and gimmicks.
The narrator trusts Kelly with personal things that one would only tell a friend. She even explains what she has and what that means for her: “Astigmatism: my eye jumps to the next line, creating an ‘imperfect image.’ But corrective lenses make me homesick. A lot of wrong thoughts. And the new crop of idols are a sea of sequins, shopping bags filled with shopping bags.” Going from telling Kelly that she has astigmatism to commenting on the new round of American Idols is disconcerting. The direction of her thoughts changes so abruptly that it can be difficult to follow. It also makes the reader think about the act of writing letters and what that form really is about.
One paragraph in the book really worked for me in terms of how disjointed and rambling the thoughts are. This example illustrated a path that curves and twists but ultimately gets you where you need to be:
Envy and hunger move across the room toward me in a cheap blue rayon dress and last year’s slingbacks. I want to wave my menstrual flag, curled like a new shell, but forego the hotel pool in favor of running to nowhere in this New Jersey. I follow a line of trees to the house as my sister asks what’s the difference between gray and grey. We pass the sign that says 99¢ DREAMS and I say it’s like dove/pigeon.
This excerpt reminds me of a journey that follows no roads or maps but really helps you to remember the important people and things in life. One wonders what Kelly Clarkson would think about the vivid, meandering ideas directed at her in this collection.