Too Much and Not the Mood, Durga Chew-Bose


“A nook person finds the dog at the party; drinks wine from a mug; sits on the floor and braids carpet tassels only to become self-conscious and unbraid them.”

Rating: ★★★★★

I finished this book about ten minutes ago and felt such a need to review this and put my thoughts out there. Too Much and Not the Mood was everything I needed and more. Taking influence from Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary, Chew-Bose has seamlessly sewn together several essays exploring culture and identity.

The first (and longest) essay, ‘Heart Museum’ was one that particularly struck a chord with me. I had never found a text so relatable before. I found myself rereading sentences, memorising quotes, and read parts so slowly as to absorb every inch of new information I had received. Having read Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, I had assumed this would be comparable. But it exceeds and extends every preconception I had of personal essays. The writing was extremely cinematic and essays merged into poetic prose. Chew-Bose manages so tenderly to portray such thoughts that do seem inconceivable, and impossible to put into words.

I did feel, at times, that Chew-Bose was actually writing about my life, because it was so extremely personal. She is able to combine quite intellectual thoughts and weave them into everyday life narratives that are so easy to emphasise with. Such a fluidity to her writing allows you to read it with ease, and there is no force for understanding. It seemed to me that I needed this book at the precise times of reading it, and I read it slowly so I could take it in with such a depth that I could carry it forever.

I will admit that the essays following ‘Heart Museum,’ whilst still beautiful, I did not gain such a strong connection with. They were shorter, and I recommend reading one essay at a time because they do merge into one. Chew-Bose talks about small, seemingly unimportant things in big ways. Her writing is new and she takes the subject of nostalgia and molds it into something you have not read before. This was a book that I have spent late summer evenings, lazing in the warmth of the sun, pondering about. It was the book that I was so indulged in while sitting on the train, that I almost missed my stop. It was a book that makes me question what I was before I had actually read the book and the book that made me realise who I was and what I need. I was different before I read this, but I can’t quite put my finger on the change.

It’s honest, stimulating and heart-warming. If you need a new, refreshing touch to prose, this is the book to read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.