A sort of “autobiography as mixtape,” Chloe Caldwell's Legs Get Led Astray is a slim, 157-page book of personal essays that are brooding with sex and longing and repetition. It's also full of music, with B-sides like Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Wilco, Rufus Wainwright, Tori Amos, and Okkervil River, whose lyrics in “Last Love Song For Now” are where Caldwell's title comes from.
The musical backbeat gives Legs a scratchy, ghostly quality. Part of this is also because, in several essays, Caldwell starts nearly every sentence with such phrases as “You had me…” “I wanted to…” “You have a girlfriend now, but…” which gives the book a peculiar cadence, as if it's a past life haunting itself.
The sadness undercuts most everything, whether she's writing about her mother, babysitting, or sucking cock. Sometimes the sadness is obvious, as in when she profiles a friend who committed suicide: “I don't know if I ever loved him. I just know that I wanted to be him. I just know that some days I want to drink a bottle of liquor and roll around on his grave.” Sometimes it's less so, like when she's describing the aftermath of an orgy. “She saw I was awake and because she's my best friend she immediately saw I was depressed and told me not to get up. She told me to lie back down, and said, 'Just pretend you're on a magic carpet.' I pretended I was on a magic carpet, and for a moment, everything felt better.”