Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism

Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism

“Reading Scratched gave me the feeling of standing very close to a blazing fire. It is that brilliant, that intense, and one of the finest explorations I know of what it means to be a woman and an artist.”—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend and Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

In a bold and brilliant memoir that reinvents the form, the acclaimed author of the novel Museum Pieces and the collection Mendocino Fire explores the ferocious desire for perfection which has shaped her writing life as well as her rich, dramatic, and constantly surprising personal life.

Scratched is an intimate account of the uses a child, and the adult she becomes, will find for perfectionism and the role it will play in every part of her life. Elizabeth Tallent’s story begins in a hospital in mid-1950s suburban Washington, D.C., when her mother refuses to hold her newborn daughter, shocking behavior that baffles the nurses. Imagining her own mother’s perfectionist ideal at this critical moment, Elizabeth moves back and forth in time, juxtaposing moments in the past with the present in this innovative and spellbinding narrative.

Elizabeth traces her journey from her early years in which she perceived herself as “the child whose flaws let disaster into an otherwise perfect family,” to her adulthood, when perfectionism came to affect everything. In the decade between 27 and 37, she publishes five literary books with Knopf and her short stories appear in The New Yorker. But this extraordinary start to her career is followed by twenty-two years of silence. She wrote, or rather published, nothing at all. Why? Scratched is the remarkable response to that question.

Elizabeth’s early publications secure her a coveted teaching job at Stanford University. As she toggles between Palo Alto and the Mendocino coast where she lives, raises her son Gabriel, and pursues an important psychoanalysis, Elizabeth grapples with the perfectionism that has always been home to her. Eventually, she finds love and acceptance in the most unlikely place, and finally accepts an “as is” relationship with herself and others.

Her final triumph is the writing of this memoir, filled with wit, humor, and heart, and unlike any other you will read. Scratched is a brave book that repeatedly searches for the emotional truth beneath the conventional surface of existence.

Title:Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism
ISBN:9780062410375
Format Type:

    Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism Reviews

  • Huyen Chip

    Professor Tallent was one of my favorite writing professors. It was great reading her memoir and understanding where she came from....

  • Shannon Pufahl

    If you read only one book in 2020, make it this one. Scratched is a book so unique, so profound and moving, so precise in both its descriptions of the physical world and the emotions we attached to an...

  • Vincent Scarpa

    In a word: perfect....

  • Ammara

    This is a deep dive into the authors life and struggles with perfectionism, which is more destructive than many realize. The book is a little difficult to read but there are some excellent insights in...

  • Cor T

    It feels mean to criticize an author who writes to explain why she couldnt write a book for 22 years due to perfectionism. Part I had such a meandering beginning that I couldnt get my bearings until t...

  • Kathleen Gray

    I find it hard to review memoirs because it feels as though I'm judging someone's life and life choices. That's doubly the case here because this is really the story of how Tallent struggled and conti...

  • Chris Roberts

    Memoir as make it stop, audacious in conceit, the dizzying, dragging minutia, of a life lived grasping for metaphors....

  • Anne

    There's some irony in the fact that I feel myself unable to capture the brilliance of Elizabeth Tallent's Scratched. So I recommend that you read the New York Times review (link at the bottom) which a...

  • B Jones

    I've read Elizabeth Tallent's previous short story collection Mendocino Fire and enjoyed it. I had found about this one in advance and pre-ordered it.This is a different and challenging approach to t...

  • Polly

    Reminiscent of Nelsons Argonauts narrative with jumbled time line snippets but mostly chronological, the no quotation dialogue in italics. I guess thats a contemporary immediacy. Brilliance here, and ...