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Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour

Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour

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Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour

3.5/5 (86 ratings)
355 pages
5 hours
Jul 27, 2010

Editor's Note

A hilarious expedition…

Told from the unencumbered voice of a fearless and cavalier 20-something, this travel memoir by an out-of-work actress searching for herself in Europe is a witty delight.


“Shukert's sharp comic turns careen smack into the middle of our hearts."
Los Angeles Times


Everything Is Going to Be Great, is performer, playwright, comedian, and author Rachel Shukert’s hilarious memoir of traveling through Europe in her twenties. She chronicles her youthful navigation through the haphazard fun and debauchery of new freedoms, and the growing pains that ultimately accompany “adulthood.” Fans of Sloane Crosley and David Sedaris are going to love Shulkert’s story, and her sharp, smart humor.

Jul 27, 2010

About the author

Rachel Shukert is a playwright, performer, and the author of Have You No Shame? And Other Regrettable Stories. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney's and Heeb, and on Salon, Slate, Gawker, Nerve, and The Daily Beast, as well as featured on National Public Radio and in numerous print anthologies. Shukert was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and now lives in New York City with her husband and her bipolar cat.

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Everything Is Going to Be Great - Rachel Shukert

Chapter One

I Am Not Even Washing the Underpants of Me

I have to tell you: I love looking at myself in the mirror.

I realize that coming from a person who has published two memoirs before the age of thirty, this admission is about as shocking as a teenage boy owning up to a furtive wank into a brittle notebook during an undersupervised study period. But all is not as simple and self-regarding as it seems. While I’m certainly helpless to resist the affirming charms of a freshly polished shop window, and loath to sit opposite a reflective surface in a restaurant lest my dining companion bear witness to a narcissism so overwhelming it overshadows even the elemental impulse to feed, the truth is that my favorite time to look at myself is when something horrible has happened.

When a boyfriend does a runner, when a family member dies, when a doctor who clearly doesn’t know the kind of suggestible maniac he is dealing with mentions that a seemingly benign skin rash on my forearm is a potential symptom of a rare form of lymphoma, I rush at once to the nearest glass in order to admire the bloodshot eyes, the swollen features, the shadowy streaks of mascara trailing unsteadily from cheek to chin like some faded penmanship of woe.

It is in these moments of despair that I think I feel most alive. This, I think as I gaze upon my mournful countenance with quiet pride, is not a person who goes quietly, measuring out her life in uncomplaining coffee spoons, hiding away her feelings behind a suffocating veil of politesse. This is a person of exquisite sensitivity. A person who sees, who senses, who feels deeply. Some people might say that such a person is histrionic and insufferably tiresome, but I like to think that such a person is, at least in some small part, special and destined for great things.

Unfortunately, what I seem most destined for is repeatedly smashing into things and breaking my face. I’ve been doing it with alarming frequency throughout my histrionic, insufferable, and tiresome life.

When I was seven, hopped up on three Cokes and a giant Rice Krispies treat, I smashed my face into the cement floor of a Schlotzky’s deli in Omaha: the result of an ill-advised gymnastics demonstration on a pommel horse constructed of two metal chairs. My teeth hit the ground first, nearly severing half my upper lip. I had to be rushed to the emergency room to have it reattached. Perhaps this was the catalyst for my curious rapture in observing my own misery, for in the weeks that followed, I found myself glued to the full-length mirror in my parents’ bedroom, watching with cheerful fascination as my lip evolved from a seeping chancre laced with blood-encrusted stitches to something resembling the sickly pulp of a rotten grape.

I never thought you’d turn into one of those girls who is always staring at herself in the mirror, my father said, his voice tinged with wounded bewilderment. I just didn’t think you were the type.

Well, I lisped through the pain, I gueth you thwought wrong.

The injuries continued at such a rate it’s a miracle I didn’t graduate from high school looking like Mickey Rourke. At nine I caught a fly ball with my eye socket, at ten an ice skating mishap left me with a vicious slash across my temple and minor nerve damage in the pad of my right hand. I lost track of the number of times the annual French Club ski trip to Nebraska’s single fake mountain ended in a stinging haze of iodine and a smear of fresh blood on the manufactured snow. When I was a college sophomore, a full-height subway turnstile locked and retracted without warning, leaving me with a black eye that lasted for weeks. I camped out in the bathroom on the third floor of the Arts and Sciences building, delighting in the ever-changing sunrise of violets, mustards, and fuchsias that danced around my eye socket, until a well-meaning janitor slipped me the number of a domestic violence hotline. Some months later a midnight hula-hoop contest and a pitcher of Long Island Iced Teas had ended with me waking up on a stretcher at the NYU hospital downtown. As I had been in an alcoholic blackout at the time, the attending physician could only postulate I had been hit by a car. A close shave, but boy, was it worth it—the wall of gritty facial abrasions that greeted me in the morning looked like an abstract rendering of the Battle of Corregidor.

Yet none of those various manglings had prepared me for what stared back at me in the mirror the day our story begins, bathed in a drowsy stream of soft Parisian light.

It was the summer before my junior year of college. I was one of sixteen NYU acting students deemed promising enough for participation in an eight-week experimental theater intensive in Amsterdam. Each morning, we wrapped ourselves in loose, shapeless clothing—oversized T-shirts and soft trousers, the sort of pants an infant might wear—and noisily mounted our secondhand bicycles for the chilly ride to class, garnering curious stares from the lanky Dutchmen on their way to work. Throughout the day, we lay in darkened studios, contorting our bodies into unseemly shapes; we thrust our hindquarters into the air and tried to feel the workings of our kidneys; we let out feral, wordless cries to symbolize rage and bellowed strings of rapid gibberish to approximate joy. We thought we were geniuses.

Even better, we were rich geniuses. In New York, we might sleep in some windowless storage space in Bushwick with roommates who found it perfectly fine to pee in the kitchen sink or hoard their menstrual blood for use as plant fertilizer, but in Amsterdam, where the dollar was strong and the euro just an avaricious gleam in the World Bank’s beady eye, we spent like sheiks. In the evenings, when classes had ended, we cut a wide swath through the city’s shops and descended on its restaurants, gorging ourselves on Kobe beef, giant prawns, desserts thick with chocolate and cream, and when the night’s feasting was over, we gathered in our common room to smoke enormous amounts of marijuana and congratulate one another on our general excellence. We were golden children, shining beacons of untapped talent and unending youth, and one day soon we would all be stars.

When our first free weekend arrived, we were eager to reward ourselves for our hard work. A large group had decided to visit a mountain town in the Swiss Alps, where in exchange for money one could jump out of an airplane. I thought this sounded like fun, until it dawned on me that the jumping would occur while the airplane was actually in the air, and I realized everyone around me was out of their fucking mind. I would no sooner jump willingly out of a plane than insert shards of broken glass into my anus. The world was already fraught with danger. Why ask for more trouble?

"Dude, I can’t wait for that shit. An enormous wave of curling smoke drifted out of Jason Barnsdorf’s mouth and over the bong, like a sheet of clouds around the roof of a lighthouse. To be in the sky like that? Like some kind of fucking immortal, man."

Like a god. Todd Beckerman pumped his arms in the air and bent backward at the waist, displaying the flexibility newly honed in our daily Ashtanga class. He had already removed his pants for the night, and at the hem of his jockey shorts I could plainly see one of his testicles, straining dangerously against its taut wrapping of hairy flesh. Like a Greek fucking god.

Four feet eleven inches tall, and bedecked in Tiffany hearts and chains and knots that I assumed had been draped ritualistically on her person at the time of her Bat Mitzvah, Stacey Seligmann hailed from Great Neck, New York—a place I had never visited but believed to be peopled with those who felt the same way I did about voluntarily plummeting to one’s death in some godforsaken corner of Switzerland.

Fuck that, said Stacey delicately, surveying our companions with a look of practiced disdain. "I want to stay in a nice hotel and go shopping. I want to wear pants with a zipper and feel like a human being again."

I said, I just don’t want to die.

And so two interminable days later, Stacey Seligmann, Stacey Seligmann’s Louis Vuitton Classic Monogram Carryall, and I arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris. Our heavily discounted train tickets had taken us on a circuitous route, including several uninteresting and unannounced stops in rural Belgium, and by the time we arrived we were dirty, tired, and cranky, just like real Parisians.

It was July 14, exactly 211 years to the day since a mob of revolutionaries had stormed the fortress of the Bastille. As I watched Stacey’s kinky blond ponytail bob determinedly before me, I thought that now, as then, France might never be the same.

We took a taxi to our hotel to drop off our things and wandered over to the Place Vendôme. The statue of Napoleon on top of the famous bronze column glittered softly in the midday sun, as men in gray jumpsuits were setting up long tables along the street. On the tables sat plump bottles of red wine, spaced in clusters every few feet. Two of the men careened past us, carrying an enormous bench, and Stacey jumped out of the way to avoid being knocked to the ground.

It must be for Bastille Day, I said, sweeping my hands awkwardly in the air. "It’s today. Le quatorze de juillet. I was here for it before, when I was in high school." The summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I’d spent several weeks in a small village in the southwest of France as part of an exchange program I had signed up for with three clearly defined goals in mind: (1) to learn to speak perfect French; (2) to shed my last stubborn pounds of pubescent baby fat; and (3) to finally experience the love of a man: that is, the kind of love that can be shown with a penis. My abject failure to achieve any of these at the time (although, in the interim, I had at least managed to accomplish the last two) was in large part the motivation for my decision to take this summer semester abroad: I wanted another chance to do things right.

Stacey pursed her small mouth thoughtfully. It’s like the French Fourth of July, right?

I nodded. It’s a lot the same. There are fireworks, picnics, things like that. And I guess we must have missed it, but in the morning there’s a big parade down the Champs-Élysées.

Like Macy’s? Cartoon floats and things?

No. It’s an army parade, and very solemn. Every branch of the military marches: the navy or the air force or . . . whatever, in these ceremonial outfits, you know, like with swords and epaulettes and big ostrich plumes. Christian Lacroix designs all the dress uniforms of the French military, I remembered suddenly. It’s all very gay and ornate.

Lacroix. Stacey rolled the word over her tongue. How do you know that?

The father of my French exchange family told me. The family had taken advantage of the holiday to take a weekend trip to the Futuroscope, a sort of stunningly dull Gallic Epcot Center just outside Poitiers. On the journey north, we had driven for miles through commercial sunflower farms. Accustomed to the unrelieved dullness of cornstalks and grain silos that formed the similarly agricultural landscape of Nebraska, I thought the bursting fields of towering golden blossoms were one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. On the morning of Bastille Day, the other children and I gathered in front of the ancient television set in one of the dingy hotel rooms their parents had rented, to peer at the endless stream of soldiers loping crisply down the boulevard, perfect and splendidly dressed as expensive toys in a glass case. I was enthralled, and nearly jumped out of my skin when the father (whose penis, incidentally, was the only one I saw during my stay, a fleshy, purple Twinkie bobbing gelatinously against his inner thigh as he changed clothes at the beach) surprised me from behind, grunting in English: "Regard them. They lose every war for five hundred years, but how magnificent their vestments."

Stacey Seligmann narrowed her eyes. My cousin Jonathan went to join the Israeli Army after he graduated high school. Now he’s superreligious and he won’t talk to his parents. His wife wears a wig, and they already have like thirteen kids, and my aunt and uncle have never met any of them. My mother says it’s a cult.

I’ve decided to raise my kids Catholic, I said. It’s also a cult, but at least they’ll get to wear cute uniforms. I always wanted to be a Catholic because of the uniforms.

Why didn’t you just go to a private school, then? Stacey asked.

We don’t have them in Omaha, I said. I used to ask to go to boarding school, but my mother said we were too poor.

Stacey quickly changed the subject. Even a facetious reference to poverty seemed to make her uneasy. Would you ever date an Arab guy?

Maybe, I said. Would you?

What’s the point? Your family would never speak to you again, and your kids would just end up looking Jewish anyway. I was beginning to enjoy Stacey Seligmann. Do you think they’ll hang out in the streets tonight? she asked. Like a block party or something? Is that what these tables are for?

I eyed one of the men in the gray jumpsuits, who stood scowling at the far end of the nearest table as he smoothed the creases from the tablecloth, a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. I’ll find out.

Americans love to moan about the rudeness of the French, but I’ve found that any effort to communicate with them in their native tongue, no matter how poor or grammatically ludicrous, eases one’s way considerably. It allows the French to change their attitude toward you from revulsion to pity, and it’s hard to be truly hostile to someone you feel genuinely sorry for. You might, for example, be annoyed with an ill-mannered child in a fancy restaurant, but when you realize the child is severely retarded, that changes things. If you want to get anywhere with the French, you have to become that retarded child.

After a few dribbling starts, the man grudgingly informed me that yes, there would be a celebration in the streets that night. The tables were set up for people to come with picnic suppers to watch the fireworks. The tables, like the wine, were provided by the government.

Stacey was somewhat less impressed by the idea of government wine than I was. Really? She squinted, adjusting the Pucci-print scarf tied round her head. You want to hang out all night in the street with a bunch of strangers? I thought we were going to have dinner at that Japanese restaurant we saw in the guidebook.

You can get sashimi in New York! I cried. We’re in Paris! It’s so beautiful! We’ll party with French people. We’ll meet hot guys. Where’s your sense of adventure?

But I don’t speak French.

Don’t worry, I said. I’ll take care of everything. Just leave it to me.

Sometimes I have dreams in which I become extraordinary, capable of extraordinary things. I dream I am a professional ballet dancer or an Olympic gymnast or an M-to-F transsexual married to Joe Biden (actually, this last was rather upsetting, as none of the other Georgetown wives would have lunch with me once they’d heard I had a penis) and I feel small and empty when I wake up to discover that I am still just me.

The Bastille Day party was like one of those dreams made real. After a mere six to eight glasses of government wine, I was speaking French with an eloquence and fluency I have never achieved before or since, and the more I drank, the better I got. Unlike government cheese, which gives you stomach cancer and, when squashed into spherical form, provides a handy and biodegradable alternative to a Super Ball, government wine was an elixir of verbosity and insight. This, I thought, was the wine of philosophical discourse and political debate, the wine of Voltaire and Descartes, of Sartre, Derrida, Foucault, and Debord.

If only they’d served this wine in the exam room of my SAT IIs, I might have had a real chance at life, I said. Sadly, I chugged the rest of my glass, spilling some of the dark purple liquid down my neck.

Take it easy, said Stacey. It’s eight o’clock, and we haven’t eaten anything.

Eaten? I shrieked. "Who needs to eaten? I’m fiiiine. Better than fine. I’m formidable. This bottle is gone. I better go cherche for another one."

About halfway through bouteille nombre deux, I struck up a conversation in French with a group of equally sozzled graduate students.

Speak not of Simone de Beauvoir to me! The force of my exhortation caused me to teeter slightly. Serge, one of the students, was standing beside me. I grabbed his shoulder for support, and the top of his balding head grazed my clavicle. There are two major types of Frenchmen, I’ve found: the heartbreakingly gorgeous Alain Delon types, whose bee-stung lips and limpid eyes leave them with few options in life other than posing languidly in Versace ads and illegitimately impregnating people like Halle Berry; and then there are these crinkly little Ewok people who have no compunction about dandling their nicotine-stained fingers in and around your cervix in public, preferably without your consent. My French father from my previous sojourn, for example, fell squarely in the latter category, as did my new friends, apart from Fabrice the dental student, who was easily six foot nine with a face like Andre the Giant. But they were friendly, they had somehow commandeered a full case of magical wine, my cervix had as yet remained unfondled, and I was on a roll: It is Gustave Flaubert who is the one true writer of feminism of France. Yes, it is true, he is making the punishment on top of Emma Bovary, but also he is saying it is the bad of the society that he is making atop her this punishment. It is necessary for one to wait for the writer who calls himself Ibsen for to allow the sin of a woman it is to be also her salvation. But too bad! All the men of Scandinavia are being very terrible in the doing of the sex. Triumphant, I let go of Serge’s shoulder and lurched back against the railing of the bridge.

Serge laughed. "Okay. But, chérie, we are all mathematics students. We aren’t studying literature."

I scoffed. This is nothing to me. I pulled the cork out of another bottle of red wine and poured about a third of the contents down my throat. But I have more to be talking. Simone de Beauvoir, she is talking very beautiful about the feminism. But in the true life? She is washing the underpants of Sartre and then she is making of the tears when he is doing the sex with the others of the women. Even in French, I was beginning to detect in my speech the vaguely Southern twang that creeps into my voice when I am very, very drunk. How I came upon this affectation is a mystery to me—I think it has something to do with some atavistic association of Southerners with gentiles, and gentiles with drunkenness. A woman who is true feminist, she is not doing of this. Hear me, Benoit! Me, I do not care if you are erotic—Benoit had tiny eyes, set high in his forehead like a Modigliani painting, while the tip of his nose almost reached his chin—but I am not doing the washing of the shit from the underpants of a man! I finished the rest of the wine and smashed the empty bottle against the cobblestones, for punctuation. The shattered glass sprayed my legs, leaving a spatter of tiny red spots of blood against my bare skin. I am not even washing the underpants of me!

Are you okay? asked Stacey.

Are you kidding? I’m just getting started, I proclaimed. Now, which one are you going to fuck? I think I’ll take the little one, unless you want him. You know, since you’re both small. She stared at me strangely. No, I amended, you’re right. We should be in love with them first.

I don’t know how long we stood drinking on the bridge, but around bottle number six, I hit the wall. By the time it was agreed we should be moving on, I had lost my full command of any language.

Where? I slurred, for the fourteenth time, as we descended the steps into the Metro, sloshing wine from a paper cup down the front of my sundress. Where we go to?

We are going to the ball, said Benoit, in English. The ball, the party of the . . . the man of fire. You know? With the water, he extinguish of the fires . . . from the trees he is rescuing the small poor kittens . . .

I think we should go back to the hotel, said Stacey. We can just get a cab.

No! I shouted. My cup was empty now. The spilled wine stung the tiny cuts the broken glass had left on my legs. Don’t be crazy! This is what we’re here for. We’re going to the fucking ball!

I knew I was naked before I knew I was awake. Naked and swathed in a coarse fabric of an unfamiliar blue. Oh God. What the hell was the matter with me? I hadn’t actually meant to sleep with that tiny Frenchman. It was supposed to be a joke, just a joke, like the time at dinner when I said I would do four shots of balsamic vinegar, no hands, for fifteen dollars. Although afterward, when I lay moaning in agony on my bare mattress as the acid churned mercilessly through my insides, that hadn’t seemed so funny either.

Alors. One must persevere, even though it sometimes seems most practical to kill oneself. I propped myself up slightly on an aching elbow and scanned the ground for my clothes. The floor was linoleum, gleaming whitely under the glare of reflected fluorescent light. That was unexpected—unless you lived in a nursing home, who had linoleum in their bedroom? Or fluorescent lighting? And who slept in a bed that was this narrow? Or this high off of the ground? Or on wheels?

The sheet was tucked up tightly under my armpits, smooth and uncreased as though done with great care. At the top, stamped in fuzzy black ink, was a name: Hôtel-Dieu de Paris. Hotel? This was not our hotel. The hotel I had checked into had carpeting and was lit by floor lamps with soft, flattering bulbs. Had we changed rooms? Outraged, I sat all the way up and lunged for the phone by the bedside, intending to call down to the front desk to complain.

That was when I noticed the IV sticking out of my left hand.

Elle se réveille! A woman, dressed all in white, was charging down the corridor. Her features were small and clenched, as though someone had pulled a string and gathered them tightly together in the center of her face, like the puckered folds of a drawstring purse. La petite Américaine qui a bu trop!

She was at my bedside now, forcing me back down against the sheets, shoving a thermometer under my tongue. A man in a white lab coat materialized at her elbow. He was bearded, his sleepy eyes ringed with shadows the color of a Kalamata olive. It took me a couple of minutes to realize they were speaking to me. I had no way to answer them. My miraculous French had disappeared completely, a dream forgotten before waking. All I could pick out was a scolding refrain: Tu as bu trop. Tu as bu trop. You drank too much.

They’re using the familiar, I thought wildly. Why don’t they show some respect?

The nurse produced a syringe. Please, I croaked in terror, desperate for them to understand. "No medications . . . pas de . . . penicillin, pas de . . . de sulfa . . . I’m allergic, allergique, I . . ." Suddenly, I was blanketed in sick. The vomit was heavy and thick, and for a moment I was surprised at how nice it felt, as though someone had spread hot oatmeal over my bare chest. I was very sleepy. I would go back to sleep, I thought. When I woke up, I would be somewhere else, somewhere familiar and safe.

The Emergency Room

Here is a fact: Being in foreign countries makes you clumsy. American feet unaccustomed to cobblestones are forced to lumber gingerly through the streets. You don’t know where anything is, so you have to keep retracing your steps, seeking out inscrutable signage, wandering around looking sweet and befuddled, which makes you an easy mark for bullies, criminals, and the perpetually annoyed. Making a phone call from a public telephone becomes an insurmountable feat. The money is unfamiliar, so buying anything takes forever, to the undisguised annoyance of your fellow shoppers. In short, to visit a foreign country is to know what it’s like to be a very old person holding up a grocery store queue at rush hour, vaguely aware of the storm cloud of hatred lurching in your direction but powerless and too arthritic to fling yourself from its merciless path.

This, in combination with the activities most people like to engage in while on vacation, such as the drinking of alcohol, the doing of drugs, and the sexing of dubious strangers, means there is approximately a 115 percent chance of you or one of your party landing in the emergency room sometime during your stay.

Fear not! Despite what you may have heard some asshole in a bad toupee say on C-SPAN, America does NOT in fact have the best health care system in the world. Every Western European country is ranked higher than the United States in overall health care, and most Central European ones as well. (You know who’s last? Myanmar. Don’t get drunk and break your nose in Myanmar, unless you want to wake up in a vat of raw sewage with someone else’s severed hand sewn to your face.)

However, just because the doctors and nurses across the pond are pretty much guaranteed not to let you die in the emergency room because you don’t have the right piece of laminated cardboard, or to present you with an itemized bill totaling $148,000, including twelve dollars per sheet of Kleenex used to mop the blood and/or vomit from your neck and clavicle, it doesn’t mean things can’t go wrong. Still, an emergency room visit can be one of the grandest highlights of Rachel Shukert’s The Grand Tour™ if you simply follow the Three P’s: Politesse, Preparedness, and Prescience.

Be Polite

Apart from a serial killer whose trailer you have unwittingly just entered, there is nobody with more godlike control over your body and well-being than a medical professional about to insert an IV or other such implement into your vein. Now is not the time to say things like: If it weren’t for us, you’d all be speaking German right now, or "Tell

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What people think about Everything Is Going to Be Great

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  • (5/5)
    Nothing is more embarrassing than reading this book while on a bus with 33 of your coworkers and laughing so hard you snort, only to be asked what you were laughing so hard about and explaining as quietly as possible that you were laughing at a description of the author performing fellatio on an older Austrian gentleman when, to her surprise, she is face to face with an uncircumcised penis.Actually, come to think of it, even more embarrassing is explaining all of this to your mother — I had the pleasure of doing this as I sat on my parent’s couch reading and feeding my niece. Thankfully my niece is only three months old and cannot read because she is not old enough to know about these things. Neither are my sisters — I would like to inquire about chastity belts forged with the strongest irons in the world so if anyone has information about this, please put me in touch with the right people.Rachel Shukert’s memoir, Everything Is Going To Be Great: An Underfunded & Overexposed European Grand Tour is one of the most hilarious memoirs, actually books, I have ever read. I can’t say that my European escapades were ever worthy of writing a book about them, but I can relate to ending up in the hospital in a foreign country because one has consumed too much alcohol. I still haven’t figured out if I was in a hospital or if I made that whole thing up and actually spent the night in an alley. Regardless of my hazy memory, Rachel recreates her adventures with witty, self-deprecating humor — my favorite kind.Graduating college and moving on to the “next big thing” in your life is a scary process. Finding a job, becoming an adult; these are things we think about but once we are forced into these situations — we try to delay this as long as possible — we often make some bad decisions. Rachel takes us on her journey post-college as she finds a non-paying acting gig and touring Europe with the play in a non-speaking role. She offers up anecdotes from her college years, pre-college years, all the while her mother calls and writes to kvetch — if there was a kvetching award, her mother would probably win. The stories in Everything Is Going To Be Great are hilarious and memorable. Beyond this, Shukert lets us know that making mistakes is okay and that we can still survive if we make them — our lives don’t have to be perfect in order to work out.This is Shukert’s second memoir — she isn’t even 30 (get on it slackers) — and is quickly becoming one of my favorite memoirists. She has written pieces for McSweeney’s and The Daily Beast and I caught her contribution to the WSJ site about Eat, Pray, Love.Have any of you read this? If not, I highly suggest you do. She’s like the female version of David Sedaris if you added in Judaism and more sex.
  • (2/5)
    Amazing Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour
  • (5/5)
    Literally a must red for any traveler. This account is as poetic and painfully heartfelt as it is shrewd and well-structured. Funny and beautifully composed of Jewish straightfowardness, Midwest naivete, and female gravitas and artfully metaphoric descriptions of what it is to be totally screwed and still end up on top in the end.
  • (3/5)
    Rachel is a budding actress and is on her way to Europe to perform in a play (as an extra). While there, she falls in and out of bars, beds and love. This is a memoir, and it's hard not to cheer Rachel on while she tries to find herself in Europe. She makes bad choices, but part of that is because she's in her early twenties on the trip. (And really, kudos to her, because most of what I did in my early twenties should not ever be written down.)This book is ridiculously funny, but most of the really funny parts would require me typing an entire page or two, which I'm pretty sure is a violation of copyright law. So here's a little snippet that I think will translate well.Rachel's visiting a psychiatrist, who told her that he thinks she's afraid of success."I said, `Here is a list of the things I am afraid of: elephants, flying, terrorists, sexually transmitted diseases, credit card statements, Poles, ballet teachers, and failure, which is generally agreed to be the opposite of success. Unless you're trying to practice some kind of reverse psychology on me, in which case you can go and fuck yourself.'"Recommended, especially for people who enjoy traveling and who are not easily offended. There's a lot of drinking, drugs and sex in here. Don't say you weren't warned.
  • (4/5)
    As Shukert herself happily admits, it takes a certain type or personality to write two memoirs before he/she turns thirty, but I think this is part of what makes this book so charming. Shukert happily admits to her flaws, to her ego, her shady moral choices and her tendency to turn minor difficulties into deep personal dramas. The reason I enjoyed this book so much is that she beautifully captures what it is like to be a young woman set out in the wider world for the first time, with all these faulty assumptions about how things are going to work and no real ideas about how to successfully manage adult independence. She talks honestly about the messiness and stupid decisions that we all make in our early twenties. Shukert describes a period in her early twenties with as much objectivity as she can muster and a willingness to speak as candidly about her own failings as the failings of the people around her.

    The thing which initially put me off was that, even though she wrote a book about travelling, she doesn't really do much actual travelling. IT feels like a book about a recent college graduate who spends a few months taking on jobs in different cities and finds her happiness by returning home. It's a remarkably easy quarter-life crisis which doesn't reflect the chaos of travel and the quirkiness and hang-ups of backpacker culture. I travelled around Europe for two years in my late teens and I got in way more trouble than her, even without all the sexual partners, and survived. Most long-term backpackers I met would have more material to work with. But it really doesn't matter, because it succeeds as a story of a girl in her early twenties losing and then rediscovering herself, and the stories she has are pretty funny. I particularly liked the ones focused on her navigating her Jewish identity - ordering cheese sausages in the wee-hours while surrounded by neo-nazis and off-loading brochures in front of the Anne Frank house. Like all good memoirs, it makes you see what it is like to inhabit somebody else's mind, and so it's worth a read for that sake alone.

    Good read, particularly if you are in your early twenties or still recovering from your early twenties.

  • (5/5)
    Hilariously awesome!
  • (2/5)
    An autobiographical account of the author's time traveling Europe, mostly as an extra with a traveling theater company.I read up to page 170, out of 309, then decided I'd had enough. I don't know how much of this book is actually true, as there are several conversations that sound contrived, and it's hard to believe that someone makes so many horrible decisions, yet is still alive. Shukert seems to think that being stupid and gross is the same as having a personality. She can write, and some of the stuff is amusing, but I couldn't go on after she writes about being sexually assaulted by two acquaintances, whom she gets away from, and not only doesn't call the police, but simply tells her roommate that she's had a rough night. I just can't relate to the way her brain works.
  • (1/5)
    I CAN READ ONLY IN romanian ,WHAT CAN i DO?
  • (4/5)
    This is not a travel guide and it is barely a travelogue. Why do people think it is? Shukert mentions her travels a little bit, but this book is mostly a self-involved memoir about Shukert's messy early 20s traveling around Europe broke, drunk, and with terrible taste in men. Being a big fan of the self-involved memoir, especially ones that center around being broke, drunk, and dating bad men, I gotta say I really liked this book.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Why I read this: I'm obsessed with travelogues and was so excited because it about a girl who was a recent college grad and I figured I'd be able to live vicariously through her as a recent college grad myself!Rating: Between 2.5 stars and 3.This book and I had a love/hate relationship. I started this book and found myself loving it and then I hit a chunk where I wanted to fling at the wall and abandon it and then I got to a place where I didn't loathe it and then I found myself really enjoying it again.I think that the subtitle is a little misleading. I had such high expectations for this being a travelogue lover. This was more a series of hilarious sexcapades in 2 countries rather than a "European Grand Tour." I was so excited about this book because I felt like Rachel and I were kindred spirits and that I'd connect with her plight--being a college grad, not knowing what you want in life, wanting to see the world and just generally being broke and wanting to find yourself. She was all that but I just didn't find myself connecting with her until maybe the end.Let me tell you some GREAT things about this book: Rachel is hilarious and the girl can write! I was seriously laughing out loud and dying with some of her descriptions of people and things. I'm impressed by her ability to make something otherwise not that exciting or amusing become something that makes me snort iced tea out of my nose. I also appreciate how honest she is about herself. I connected with that. At first, I found myself rolling my eyes at her and not caring about her because I just thought she was selfish and never learning and growing, but I found myself gaining alot of respect for her and genuinely finding her to be likable. I also thought she was clever in adding all these hilarious "extras" like when you are reading a travel guide and it might have a little boxed off section for things like "how to order food or what to do at the airport." Instead, her "extras" were things like "Assembling Your Rachel Shukert costume" (with a full on diagram about the "tuck method if you are a male" or "Are You About To Be Sex Trafficked?". Really clever and hilarious sections.Things I Didn't Like/Feel The Need to Warn You About: If you are the least bit offended by explicit sexual details or lots of vulgar language, skip this one! I wouldn't consider myself a prude but sometimes felt shocked or embarrassed by the details. This book can be raunchy, vulgar and she loves to describe and talk about male anatomy in great detail--chocolate ones, big ones, little ones, uncircumsized ones--penises all over the globe! Also, I didn't find myself DYING to pick this up. I was trying to finish it during Readathon because I needed the motivation to do it. I got tired of her sexcapades after a while but I will say that in the end she does redeem herself a little bit.The final thought: In the end I was pretty disappointed with this book as whole. I'd recommend going into it without the expectation that it will be the travelogue of a college grad. Read it if you wished David Sedaris and Chelsea Handler had smart assed, hilariously hip child. Don't pick this book up if you will be offended by sex and foul language

    1 person found this helpful

  • (2/5)
  • (3/5)
    I had picked up this book to read because it was connected to the Grand Tour, a topic I've wanted to read memoirs and travelogues about. This one was definitely the opposite of a Renaissance/Victorian Grand Tour memoir... the woman was the tourist, and while the amorous encounters on other grand tours happened, I highly doubt the women started most of them. Interesting turnabout in that respect. Interesting, quick read. More than a few times I found myself pausing to think, "She did what?"or "They said that?" - but parts of me are still prudish/sheltered in nature. [not very many parts, mind you, but there are parts left from a happily naive childhood]. What I took from it: rent a bike in Amsterdam, don't drink so much you don't realize what's going on, exploring other places is exciting, and I'm very glad that if I was exploring another country, I'd likely be sharing the experience with a loved one = no drama. Drama is fun to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
  • (3/5)
    If you've ever dreamed of traveling to Europe with no money or any real idea of how you are going to live, this is the book for you. If you have a young daughter who wants to do that, do not read this book, it will scare the hell out of you.Subtitled An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour, Shukert recounts her many adventures traveling around Europe, first as the member of an acting troupe with a sketchy agenda, and then on her own, courtesy of an unstamped passport which allowed her to travel unfettered throughout Europe.Shukert is a very funny, albeit somewhat vulgar, writer. I read this on the city bus traveling around Manhattan and found myself keeping the book as closed as possible so as not to offend any Upper East Side matrons who may be trying to sneak a peek at what I was reading.She writes very freely of her many sexual exploits, which often coincided with her drinking to excess. One really crazy night had her doing her best to avoid participating in a three-way with some very scary, excitable Italian men she did not know well. It was a scene a young, Jewish Lucy Riccardo might find herself in, all that was missing was Ethel, and Shukert had me laughing like crazy as she described extricating herself from this potentially dangerous situation.I loved her mother, whose favorite pastime was to send Rachel "large manila envelopes containing scraps of information that she feels need to be brought to my attention: notices culled from the local newspaper reporting that my high school boyfriend has once again been imprisoned for car theft; excerpts from the latest sermon torn from the synagogue bulletin; photocopied magazine articles detailing gruesome diseases from which she believes I might be at risk."On one card, her mom wrote- "Remember- having multiple sexual partners significantly increases your immediate risk of developing cancer of the cervix. Please consider." Hilarious!Shukert includes in the text helpful tips for living abroad, including what to do "When Someone Mistakes You For a Prostitute", "Are You About to Be Sex-trafficked?" and "Snappy Comebacks To Loaded Questions" such as1. Why are Americans so fat?2. Are Americans religious because they are stupid, or just ignorant? and3. Why do Americans cruelly refuse to provide public health care for all?There is lots of heart in this memoir, and I liked Shukert's adventures in Amsterdam, living with her friends, Jeroen and Mattis. She gives the reader a good flavor for what it is like living in a foreign city: the loneliness, the difficulty in getting a job, the joy of riding a bike as a means of transportation.Everything Will Be Great will appeal to mostly a younger crowd, and for those lucky enough to have traveled to Europe, they will chuckle with recognition.
  • (5/5)
    I snorted with laughter and crying tears of hysteria while reading this book. It was brilliant!!!Rachel, just graduated NYU and joins an experimental dance troupe tours around Europe to find herself. She has a great ear for voices, and I wished this book just went on and on and on!!!
  • (4/5)
    1 book I read―Everything Is Going To Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour by Rachel Shukert2 words that describe the book―Sex Memoir (NOT so much a travel memoir as you might think)3 setting where the book took place or characters I met* Setting: Primarily Vienna and Amsterdam, Modern Day* Rachel Shukert is a Jewish girl from Omaha who moves to New York City to make it as an actress. She is broke and barely getting by when she finally gets her “big break”—working for a temperamental director in an off-Broadway play that eventually has a European run in Vienna. After the play closes, Rachel decides to stay with friends in Amsterdam. After all, why not be broke and miserable in Europe instead New York?* During Rachel’s adventures, we get to meet a colorful cast of characters, including: Berthold (“an Austrian photographer old enough to be my father”); Mattijs and Jeroen (a gay couple who allow Rachel to live in their tiny apartment in Amsterdam); Marco, Ivan and Enzo (Italians—one of whom is an amateur dentist and two of whom are sex-crazed possible sex traffickers); Pete (Rachel’s lover and possible boyfriend except for the little business of him having a girlfriend and possibly being a psycho); and Ben (potential husband material).4 things I liked or disliked about the book* This book is f#*@ing hilarious! BUT if you blanched when you saw the F word (even typed with nonsense characters), this book isn’t for you. It is raunchy, dirty, irreverent, bawdy and wonderfully scatological. In other words, not for everyone. But if this kind of stuff doesn’t bother you, you’ll be spitting drinks out your nose from laughing and saying “OH NO SHE DIDN’T” as you read along.* At first glance, the book might seem like it is a travel memoir. Let me tell you, it is not. Sure, Rachel provides valuable information for travelers, including such gems as “The Swiss: Europe’s Perverts,” “Are You About to Be Sex-Trafficked?,” “Where The F*#K Am I? A Guide to Dutch Street Names,” as well as practical information on finding a dentist in Amsterdam with no health insurance or money. But, for the most part, this is a personal memoir that gets down and dirty about the realities of a single woman who isn’t afraid to take chances on casual sex.* I enjoyed how Rachel wrote about whatever struck her fancy—from imagining imaginary Amsterdam-set sitcoms to examining the peculiar relationships between Phil Collins and the Dutch. From the very start of the book, which includes a helpful guide about How To Use This Book (as a trivet, as substitute coasters, as Kleenex, as toilet paper, as sanitary napkins) and a guide for Assembling A Rachel Shukert Costume, you know you’re not reading a conventional memoir that plays by the rules. The book is part comedic essay, part travel narrative, and part sex memoir—all rolled around in nice helping of curse words and irreverence.* I really wanted to know who the big-time director was! I disliked that Rachel kept that information from me after being more than open about everything else. (But I suppose if I were more in the know about theater, I could have figured it out. Plus I suppose she has to watch out for potential lawsuits.)5 stars or less for my rating:I’m giving the book 4 stars. I thought it was a funny, fast read that had a generous ratio of laughs per page. However, if you’re easily shocked or not comfortable with bawdy, raunchy, irreverence and a generous helping of four-letter words, this book might not be the best choice for you. If, however, you have low standards like me, check it out … it was one of the more original and amusing memoirs I’ve read.
  • (4/5)
    As originally posted on my website: spittingvenomreviews.comThis one's for my female readers. Yes, I did it. I read a chick book. A memoir even. More importantly, I LIKED it. This alone should tell you that this book is better than your average chick lit recipe of: One sad girl, two shakes male genitalia, three cups best girlfriends, sprinkle with clever witticisms, and bake until girl finds herself by finding a nice man. It does contain all of those themes - the author did find herself along with love, and the stories are shockingly hilarious - but it also contains the words fuck, shit, and piss (thankfully not all in the same sentence) liberally scattered throughout. I think those of you who read my musings regularly will agree this is a good thing. Nothing more appalling than a woman hiding behind pleasantries. So if you need some respite from, or like myself simply have no interest in that other memoir (now movie); the one that has something to do with gorging one's self, talking to imaginary friends and mixing sex with warm fuzzies, then read on. Or at least check it out because this book definitely deserves not to be passed up or overshadowed. Carrying on with the review then...In her twenties, freshly graduated from NYU with a degree in acting, already borderline alcoholic , disillusioned, broke and having a penchant for one night stands; Rachel Shukert (born and raised in Omaha, NE) somehow lands a very minor and nonpaying role in an important theatrical production. Welcoming the opportunity, since those were much to her "I just graduated and the whole world will love me" chagrin quite slim, she eagerly signs on, mostly because the play will be heading to Europe where she imagines she may get the chance to "find herself". Or at least thats what she tells her mother back in Omaha and seems to at least temporarily convince herself of.In case you were wondering - I had an initial fear myself - this isn't a memoir from a spoiled twentysomething party girl on how haaawwwt it is to be a twentysomething party girl. Not only is Shukert an intelligent and phenomenal writer (her style and structure is right up there with some of my most favorite authors - Nicely done Rachel!), but she doesn't glamorize her story. Nor does she seek pity, try to save the world, anyones' soul, or go on a feminist rant. It's more along the lines of her wanting to entertain us to the point of maybe spitting Diet Coke out our noses by recounting the tales of the crazy shit that happened to her while she was young, naive and fucked in the head. Like we women dishing over margaritas and raspberry martinis about all the things we never want our boyfriends or husbands to find out we did before we were with them. Because, as we know ladies, we were all "almost" virgins before we met our current partner. Right? Exactly.That being said, I/we can feel comfy enough then to let Rachel do all the talking, er writng. We'll laugh with her and throw out a few "oh wow's" when she tells us about her fling with a photographer in Vienna who was old enough to be her father, and whose grandfather might have been a Nazi. We'll shake our heads at her, and maybe even tear up with her when she reminisces about falling for a married psychopath. We'll nonchalantly grab our hand sanitizer and casually move our chairs slightly away from her when she tells us the way too damn close for comfort almost threesome with two surly Italians while trying to get a crown repaired story. We'll call her a chickenshit when she passes up the opportunity to sleep with a coworker whose dick is pierced Prince Albert style, and we'll be quietly envious of the best friends forever relationship she has with a male gay couple in Amsterdam. Yes this book reads like you really could be sitting at the bar or a BBQ swapping stories.My mom once told me when I was in my twenties: "One morning around your 26th birthday, you'll wake up and hear this astounding BOOM. You know what that is? It's the sound of your head finally popping out of your ass! Don't be afraid, it happens to us all." So true. We've all made our mistakes, had regrettable encounters and close calls, no matter our IQ, or how many advanced placement courses we took in high school. They're not glamourous, nor do they make us terrible people. They are what they are, they make us who we are, and provided our heads at some point really do pop out our asses, maybe even shoved out by those experiences, they're nothing to be too terribly ashamed of. Thankfully we've got each other, and women like Rachel willing to share, because we'd all go nuts pretending to be virtuous.Okay, okay, sappy shit out of the way, some of the other merits to this book are the side stories and "how to's" or "how to nots". For example, if you're a man and really want to see Europe Rachel's way, there's an instructional complete with diagram on how to properly tuck your penis to look like a vag. Should you ever find yourself hospitalized while in Europe, there are name tags in five different languages that list important info regarding your allergies and emergency contacts, along with some pointers on how to properly react to socialized medicine. As if that weren't enough, you'll get some comical but not to be taken out of context or too seriously advice on how not to become sex trafficked. Though for us older gals that's probably not too likely, but good to know anyway.Regardless of your age, I think there are many of you who will get a kick out of this book. Perhaps because whatever some feel ashamed of might not be so bad in comparison, or maybe because some can finally say "thank god, I thought I was the only one!" I won't tell you which category I fall into because I was "almost" a virgin before I met the man I'm with now, and just thought this was a really funny book. Heh, heh, right.....
  • (5/5)
    The Good Stuff * Book is written by a wonderfully funny self-deprecating and honest women * So funny at times you will snort wine out your nose -- true story (Hmm, maybe should put that under not so good stuff) * The How to Use this Book at the beginning is worth the price of the book alone * Love her relationships and conversations between Rachel and her parents and between her and her two gay roommates * Refreshingly honest, definitely the kinda person you want to hang around with * Oh come on, just go but the book, you know you wanna - you won't be disappointed * She mentioned eating spaetzle, which reminded me of the yummy spaetzle my neighbor used to make me as a kid -- it was heavenly yummy stuff * It may not sound like it, but the Are You About to be Sex-Trafficked bit is quite funny * I will definitely be looking for a copy of her other book "Have you no shame" * Why are you still reading this -- Go Buy the Book, the author is far more wittier than I am : )The Not so Good Stuff * She can be quite vulgar and some of her imagery is a little nasty (not complaining, but just a warning) at times * Certain chapters just sort of jump and you get a little lost for a moment or two -- or that just could be because I am a mom and the brain doesn't work all that fast these days * Had Phil Collins lyrics in my head while reading -- not that that is a completely bad thing -- but it lasted all dayFavorite Quotes/Passages (There are so many, I had to cut myself off from putting them all!)"I am uncomfortable explicitly endorsing this product for bodily insertion, uncertain as I am of the safety of any chemical additives in the paper, dyes, or inks. Should you contact the customer service line at HarperCollins, I am sure they will be able to advise you.""In the olden days, when wealthy young English gentlemen stormed the immoral European continent in order to shake off the last libidinous and homosexual vestiges of boarding school before settling down to the business of siring heirs and murdering wildlife...""It didn't seem fair to force someone to confront their family's Nazi past until you'd been dating for at least six weeks.""I believe you have me mixed up with a gay man --- Gay men are supposed to bring over ice cream and tell you how thin you look and show you where to get tested for STD's, Lesbians give tough love and tell you what to put in the cat's food to keep it from shedding."What I Learned * I really, really enjoy memoir's written by self-deprecating Jewish women!!!! * I so need to travel to Europe one of these days * I like Phil Collins songs ; )Who should/shouldn't read * Not for the prudish or easily offended * Good for anyone who has a sense of humor -- if you don't why the heck are you reading my blog anyway * Fans of Ariel Leve should enjoy as well * Anyone who likes memoirs by frank and funny Jewish chicks!4.5 Dewey'sI received this from Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review -- honestly ; )
  • (3/5)
    A very funny book in places. However, I'm only giving it 2 1/2 stars for it's self description as a European grand tour. This book is far more memoir than travelogue. The author does not describe much about the places she's visiting. Also, 3/4 of the books describes the time when she is living in Amsterdam. The rest of the "European tour" are brief visits to Vienna & Zurich, with a college day trip to Paris thrown in.