Beginning with a heroic couplet found inside a fortune cookie and ending with the novella’s titular poem, How to Adjust to the Dark is both a collection of poetry and self-examination by a poet, Charlotte, looking back on her early twenties after an extended period of writer's block. Explicating the romantic relationships, personal history, and struggles embedded in each of her poems, Charlotte gradually uncovers the many versions of herself she has inhabited and the traumas woven into her beliefs about who she was as a writer and person at each critical point in time. A hybrid of prose, poetry, and theory in the vein of Bluets and Leaving the Atocha Station, How to Adjust to the Dark is a writer’s frank, extended examination of the idea that falling in love and making art have to hurt to be good, and the work it takes to disentangle oneself from this notion in order to grow into who it is we want to be, what we wish to write about, and how we choose to make a life.
“I’m in awe of this book… Like Sheila Heti's How Should a Person Be, van Laer takes so-called 'women's writing' and opens it up, showing us what exists beyond cliché and easy answers." —Lindsay Lerman, author of I'm From Nowhere and What Are You
“[In] a series of vignettes interwoven with poems and literary self-analysis…van Laer reminds us of how embarrassing and brave and beautiful it is to write, how our own words become life rafts. They are impermanent, silly, and wholly necessary." —Shannon McLeod, author of Whimsy
“…a very personal exploration of the artist as a young woman, through a Salingeresque world of academia, therapy, prescription drugs, street drugs, failed relationships, poetry and self-discovery. I read it all in one day with photographs of Anaïs Nin and Edward Albee and Donna Tartt in my periphery. If only there’d been a photo, too, of Sylvia Plath on my wall, all would have been right in my world! ” —Elizabeth Ellen, author of Person/a and Her Lesser Work
“A touching, and resilient collection on art and desire, told in a hybrid of poems and prose—think: VH1 Behind the Music for Rebecca van Laer’s poetry. Craigslist hookups, sunshine, pain, love and liquor and vomit.” — Bud Smith, author of Teenager
Rebecca’s writing appears in TriQuarterly, Joyland, Columbia Journal, The Florida Review, Salamander, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, the Ploughshares blog, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She holds a PhD in English from Brown University, where she studied queer and feminist autobiography. She lives in the Hudson Valley.