Psychologist and writer Lauren Slater, a longtime ELLE contributor, has a new book (her eighth) out this week—Playing House: Notes of a Reluctant Mother (Beacon Press). Several of the essays in this collection started as essays in ELLE (like “Killing My Body to Save My Mind” and “Light My Fire”).
So it was only fitting to give readers a chance to preview Playing House right here on ELLE.com. The following excerpted chapter, “The Mud Is in My Mouth” (which also began as an ELLE assignment), is as sterling, and stirring, an example of Slater’s exploratory, hallucinatory, boundary-pushing brand of autobiographical writing as we’ve seen.
Before we get to that, though, we want also to share Slater’s stout declaration of allegiance to women’s magazines, a category that is all too often dismissed as insubstantial beauty-parlor gloss and dross, in her “Acknowledgments” at the end of Playing House:
Each essay in this book was written “on assignment” (though here you are seeing the full-length versions, sometimes two and three times longer than what was first published), and thus I always took these essays less seriously than my “real work,” my books, which I wrote not for money but for love. And yet, looking at these arranged essays, I realized that, without ever knowing it, or meaning to, I had told a sober, serious, and scathingly honest account of one woman’s life straddling two centuries.