HarperSanFrancisco (2003), $19.95
By now, you must have heard the term "quirkyalone," which, according to the official definition, is "a person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than date for the sake of being in a couple."
I've been following the quirkyalone movement (indeed, the notion has an international cult following) since its beginning in 2000, when I picked up To-do List Magazine and read the sharp, incisive essay by San Francisco's Sasha Cagen that launched a new cause and a new community. I identified instantly and mightily with the modern, feminist idea of the quirkyalone, and have come to regard Cagen as a genius for articulating the concept. Perhaps that's why I'm so disappointed with her latest offering, a published "manifesto."
A puzzling amalgam of scrapbook, zine, self-help manual, unscientific sociological study, and extended personal essay, this manifesto is nothing more than a novelty gift book for the unindoctrinated. Divided into eight chapters, the book overanalyzes every aspect of the term (for example, whether one is born a quirkyalone or whether one becomes one), and at the end of each chapter offers painfully obvious relationship and personal health tips ("Eat well and exercise"). Thankfully, Cagen's writing is intimate and funny throughout; it reads as if you and she are old friends, having a good conversation in her kitchen over coffee.
Still, the book seems ill-conceived. Random newspaper clippings and personal surveys peppered throughout its underdesigned pages, as well as an unrelated short story at the end, look like a desperate attempt to meet a page count. Though it's based on a brilliant idea and features some strong writing, Quirkyalone, sadly, never fully develops into a real fist-raised-in-the-air manifesto -- or even a substantive read.