In 2012, Kate Carroll de Gutes found herself at a rest stop “ruined with anxiety. And when I say ruined, I mean in a car, in hundred-degree weather, with all the windows rolled up, sobbing and crouched in the passenger’s seat rocking and waiting for the Ativan to take effect. I posted on Facebook, ‘Hello, Redding. Dear gods yer hot.’ A funny post that let my family and friends know where I was, but not how I was.”
De Gutes didn’t yet understand how insidious social media had become—with pictures of risotto and bike rides, images of nights at the theater—all of it curated to show a wonderful life, regardless of what was really occurring. But when her editor, her best friend, and her mother all died within ten months of each other, de Gutes could no longer keep up the charade.
She began The Authenticity Experiment as a 30-day challenge, wondering if she could be more honest about her days. She used social media as her new back fence, a place where she could stand and talk to her “neighbors” about the good and bad. The essays resonated with a wide audience, so de Gutes kept writing, chronicling the dark and the light, and putting it out there for everyone to see.
Praise for The Authenticity Experiment: Lessons from the Best and Worst Year of My Life:
With The Authenticity Experiment: Lessons From The Best & Worst Year Of My Life, Kate Carroll de Gutes has written a masterful navigation of the human soul in both crisis and wonder. This collection of essays, written as an exercise of introspection and transparency in an era of cosmetic sincerity, combine to illuminate the complex landscape of a true artist’s mind through tragedy and fleeting completion. De Gutes’ pilgrimage in the process of grief attempts to either make desperate sense of the chaos in the vacuum of loss, or cling to those transient moments when things are, unexpectedly, crystallized — albeit briefly — in perfection, or the memory of perfection. Kate’s care for both language and craft, along with her gifts for insight, profound observation and wit, will resonate in the heart and mind of the reader for days afterward. It’s an incredible work worthy of sharing a book shelf with Joan Didion. Kate’s voice and heart will resonate among the best memoirists of our age.
— Domingo Martinez, author of The Boy Kings of Texas
Kate Carroll de Gutes decided to spend a while doing what most of us don't do: tell the truth. Tell the truth to herself and then to everyone else, and the truth turns out to be funny, hard, sad, sweet, tough, confusing, tender and sharp. It's your truth, too.
—Sallie Tisdale, author of eight books, including Violation, Talk Dirty to Me, and Stepping Westward
Kate Carroll de Gutes is the Annie Leibovitz of short essays. Most blog posts last as long as Snapchats, but The Authenticity Experiment: Lessons From The Best & Worst Year Of My Life—like stylized portraits—renders what can’t be seen, only felt. They offer readers a way to see, really see, and to love. With images like a scowling baby hawk and the ever-present Cannondale bike, she works through grief and marvels at its grit. What she captures in these works of art testifies to memories and friendships that endure longer than the living.
— Kate Gray, author of Carry The Sky
Kate Carroll de Gutes' extraordinary The Authenticity Experiment demands an authentic quote. Reading it, which I did very slowly so as to savor each tiny, beautiful chapter, I thought: "Oh, oh, oh, this is so good. Oh! I love this! This woman can WRITE. How on earth has she composed a book about dying and grieving that radiates with so much joy, life, and humor? Okay, I'm buying a copy for everyone I know." You should too.
— Karen Karbo, author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel
Facebook misleads us, doesn’t it? With our curated lives, partial images of what’s going on. My own feed shows me at the Pink Martini concert dancing to China Forbes singing “Brazil.” And riding my red Cannondale CAAD 10 on the Deschutes River Trail (note the fine components on my bike and my amazing cycling kit). And at Spork eating an appropriately sized, gluten-free, cruelty-free, low-carb lunch with five of my close friends.
That’s why I started this experiment. Could I show you the full picture? Could I bare my soul that way? Tell you that the bike shorts are a size larger than last year. Disclose that the concert made me nostalgic for a night eighteen years ago when my ex-wife and I first bought Sympathique and blasted it through our Optimus bookshelf speakers and out into our backyard with the newly-finished cobblestone patio replete with black wrought iron furniture. That I remember that night and the gin and tonic with such longing for what was so good about that time and place and relationship.
Things were easier, or so I thought. People dropped by and parties happened spontaneously—great big Barefoot Contessa–type meals on that patio. And my ex-wife and I talked well into the night about things that felt so important—feel so important—books, news, the future, the garden.
On the Deschutes River bike ride, though, my friend Lesbiana Profundis and I talked about our former marriages and how what we think we really miss is the idea of what we thought our marriages were. In other words, we miss the story that we told ourselves about our relationships. Because the reality is, I drank way too much during that entire marriage. The reasons why are myriad, but the fact remains, during those Barefoot Contessa meals, I had a big buzz on. But in the picture of may marriage I remembered during the Pink Martini concert, that’s conveniently Photoshopped out.
Everything is both/and. You either embrace it or you hate it. Sometimes you do both. We live in the great mess, the humus, or soil, of life—which has for its root, the same prefix as human. It comes from the Latin homo (not that homo, that’s Greek), which means to be born of the earth. Life should be dirty, tumbling around in all the organic components that make up our lives, our living, ashes to ashes, and all that beautiful fertileness that makes us who we are. We should not Photoshop it out just so we look a little happier, a little skinnier, and like we had one less gin and tonic. Take a breath and embrace the duality, and remember, it’s okay if your bike shorts are a size larger than last year.