March 5, 2012

Sex, Alcohol, Drugs, and Writing: The Chronology of Water {featured book}

Essay about the cover
How do you talk about a book that is capable of describing something because of how it breaks down and escapes the rules of language? The “incest narrative” has become a “cliché,” states Lidia Yuknavitch. It sounds “so horrible to say but talk to an editor or agent or publisher and you will hear rhetoric about the incest narrative and how to sell it or what will prohibit your book form selling. As if that matters.”

Instead of presenting us with another incest narrative, complete with a history of excessive drug and alcohol use, and a lot of hard, numbing, mind-blowing, cleansing sex, Yuknavitch shatters narrative and goes poetic about it in her prize awarded memoir, The Chronology of Water. You literally can go through this book and "chart the moments" of emotional and sexual intensity "by watching where the language -- to quote Dickinson -- goes strange." A bleeding stream of words, images, sensations, pouring out the body memories of a father who raged, a mother who failed them, a sister whose colon was irrevocably messed up. The epic sex and partying, the drunken marriages, a stillborn child. She explains:
I’m not sure it is possible to articulate grief through language. You can say, I was so sad I thought my bones would collapse. I thought I would die. But language always falls short of the body when it comes to the intensity of corporeal experience. The best we can do is bring language in relationship to corporeal experience – bring words close to the body – as close as possible. Close enough to shatter them. Or close enough to knock a body out. To bring language close to the intensity of experiences like love or death or grief or pain is to push on the affect of language.
And in fact, it is impossible not to feel affected by Yuknavitch’s language; I definitely found it very therapeutic. Although her childhood experiences weren’t my experiences, and although her way of dealing with them weren’t my way of dealing, she gives language to my own, and there’s a sense of release in that. Yuknavitch really gets this. No matter how violent or not the abuse you experienced, and no matter how extreme or not your way of escaping the pain later on, you will find yourself in the same water with Lidia when you read her memoir. And you will find hope. Hope in finding a tribe and a twin. Hope in life. Hope that the grief can be bridged, that with language we can weave a web to sustain a sense of self with a history we can endure.
It is possible to carry life and death in the same sentence. In the same body. It is possible to carry love and pain. In the water, this body I have come to slides through the wet with a history. What if there is hope in that.
Read The Chronology of Water not just to find hope, though. Read it too to feel its raw intensity, and the calm of its troubled waters. And read it for its lessons.
So here's the deal. About family, you have to make it up. Seriously. I know amazing single women and their children who are families. Gay men and women with kids who are families. Bisexuals and transsexuals who family up all over the place. People who don't have partners create families in everyone they touch. I know women and men from a multitude of sexual orientations without any children just doing their lives who create families that kick the can down the street. The heterosexual trinity is just one of many stories.

If marriage goes busto, make up a different you. If the family you came from sucked, make up a new one. Look at all the people there are to choose from. If the family you are in hurts, get on the bus. Like now.

I'm saying I think you have to break into the words "relationship" or "marriage" or "family" and bring the walls down. Don't even get me started on the current BAR PEOPLE WHO LOVE EACH OTHER FROM MARRYING fiasco. Annie get your gun. Jeez. Anyway. The key is, make up shit.

Make up stories until you find one you can live with. 
I learned it through writing.
Writing can be that.
From the book's flip cover:
Lidia Yuknavitch, a lifelong swimmer and Olympic hopeful, escapes her raging father and alcoholic and suicidal mother when she accepts a swimming scholarship which drug and alcohol addiction eventually cause her to lose. What follows is promiscuous sex with both men and women, some of them famous, and some of it S & M, as Lidia discovers the power of her sexuality to help her forget the pain. The forgetting doesn’t last, though, and it is her hard-earned career as a writer and teacher, and the love of her husband and son, that ultimately create the life she needs to survive.
Lidia Yuknavitch
Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of three works of short fiction: Her Other Mouths, Liberty’s Excess, and Real to Reel, as well as a book of literary criticism, Allegories of Violence. […] She teaches writing, literature, film, and women’s studies in Oregon.
For a slew of other raving responses to Yuknavitch's memoir, visit her publisher Hawthorne Books online where you can browse through excerpts of the reviews.

1 comment:

  1. This book is very compelling but it entails a lot of controversies and addiction problems. I suggest that if you are becoming drug or alcohol dependent, it's best to go to a drug rehab in New York so you'll get help the soonest possible time. 


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