KIRKUS BOOK REVIEW
An amusing collection of commentaries about coming to terms with aging and change.
Logan (Designs in Patchwork, 1987) delivers an assortment of breezy observations of the ordinary that gradually reveal
more difficult meaning-of-life questions. She begins her musings by literally studying her own navel. Her once perfectly
formed “in-ey” that sat in the middle of a flat stomach, she says, is now an ugly “out-ey,” deformed by surgery and age:
“it looks like a damn elephant trunk.” It is, as it turns out, just the last straw in a series of accumulating, irksome
indignities, all of which lead her to the greater issue she’s facing: “What is my place at this age?” Logan is an articulate
writer with a delightfully sharp wit that’s directed as often against herself as against society at large, and she writes as if
engaged in conversation with a close friend. Each chapter begins with a memory or reflection that, at first, seems
unrelated to the topic at hand: her childhood days at the swimming pool or her observation that her husband has had a
mysterious, late-in-life growth spurt. Then her thoughts take deft turns, and the connections become obvious: her time in
the sun led to two basal cell carcinomas, and she discovered that she’d become half an inch shorter than she was a year
before. At times, she can be poignantly philosophical, as when she tries to remember the last time she made a call from a
phone booth. Why is it, she asks, that we can remember all the firsts but not the lasts? It’s because we usually don’t
know the lasts will be the lasts, she says; we don’t think them important enough to record them in our mental data banks.
Her advice? Embrace the moment one is in. Logan’s work will resonate primarily with her contemporaries, as she
captures a recognizable cultural past and offers inspiration for moving forward, but younger women who are willing to
risk a peek into the future will also find it useful.
An upbeat guide for navigating an inevitable path.
BLUEINK BOOK REVIEW
The Navel Diaries: How I Lost My Belly button and Found Myself
TerraCotta Publishing, 222 pages, (paperback) $15, 9780986381249
(Reviewed: June 2016)
In this collection of essays, author Diann Logan used humor and nostalgia to contemplate growing older and the changes that come with it.
The book opens with an explanation of Logan’s fixation on her navel and her displeasure that a series of medical conditions have resulted in an “umbilical hernia” and ruined what was once her prized body part. The first essay lays the foundation for the theme of the collection. Logan is growing older and her body seems to be betraying her. She’s getting shorter, losing hair, starting to smell and her navel looks like a “damn elephant trunk.”
Naturally, she doesn’t like any of it, but she also realizes there’s not a whole lot she can do about it. Along with the changes in her body, Logan considers the bigger questions, such as her sense of purpose and the changing times that have brought us friends who are strangers you share a click of a mouse with.
Much of the writing here is humorous, such as when she writes, “I’ve had the first little warning bell that blowing my nose and passing gas can go hand in hand. . .” But there is also a certain poignancy, too. Often, the two are mixed. A chapter that begins with her aching navel and the revelation that she needs to hold it, in order to protect it, when she sneezes, ends with “The truth is I don’t want to outlive my sense of purpose, no matter how minute the purpose of the moment might be.”
At times the sorrows of aging can feel a bit repetitious and on at least one occasion when a clerk describes the author’s hair as gray (Logan notes that it’s “sandy brown with a little gray here and there”), the writing devolves in a rather ugly rant. Those concerns aside, this is (sic) an enjoyable read, well written and edited, and one women of a certain age will readily identify with.
Also avaiable as an ebook.
I spoke her words…
I thought her thoughts…
She knows me…
And I know her.
Diann Logan is a brilliant artist. An artist whose words are the paint and her diaries the canvas that is “The Navel Diaries: How I Lost My Belly Button and Found Myself.” Each one of her over 20 undated diary entries is distinctly different yet always connected to the others. Some are hysterically funny; others are filled with longing for what was and acceptance; and still others are familiar yet core rattling and thought provoking.
She paints detailed, emotional, and vivid pictures of who she is as a woman over 50, an older woman. Her stream of consciousness style of writing is appealing to any reader who is looking for an engaging and honest stroll through the myriad of physical, emotional, and aspirational changes a woman goes through as time goes by.
Her pages are full of memories of Noxzema, Nancy Drew, first loves and kisses, and frosted and overly permed hair. In the chapter entitled “Alpha and Omega” she shares a random thought:
Sometime the goofiest thoughts get a hold of me. Just the other day, I was wondering when was the last time I was in a phone booth?? I made a pay phone call to somebody, but who was it?
While I read her book I found myself laughing out loud and occasionally read entries to my partner. His consistent response was, “Oh—that sounds like you! That is you!” Yes, as a woman over 50, I found her book both entertaining and comforting.
Buy her book for yourself or surprise a friend with a copy. Her frankness and fresh storytelling will have wide appeal. I am looking forward to the release of “Dear Navel Diary—Are you Listening?” in 2016.
I have known and loved Diann for years, but when she gave me The Naval Diaries to read, I must admit that I was a bit wary. From the title and the description, I wondered if it was going to be the typical formulaic humorous book about aging. I doubted that I would get any new perspectives on the topic that hadn’t been tread many times in pop culture. Was I ever wrong! Diann’s take on aging is fresh, insightful, and sophisticated. She articulates things I had been thinking but hadn’t put into words, and the topics she covers are unexpected. You’ll learn a lot here and will have a wonderful time as you do.
Dr. Sonja K. Foss
Department of Communication
University of Colorado Denver
Author of Gender Stories: Negotiating Identity in a Binary World, Feminist Rhetorical Theories, Women Speak: The Eloquence of Women’s Lives and others