Friday, December 20, 2019


In the beginning, I feel the book (The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavich) is going to corroborate my general argument that life is a bowl of shit and hurt. From birthing a stillborn baby daughter to dealing with hardly a father, Yuknavich pulls me in super close to examine all the shit, all the hurt.

The irony is that the extraordinary way she writes makes even the most awful thing she recounts to be recounted with alarming beauty. The kind that gets me all jealous because I want MY writing to be that beautiful. I want my recounting to be as raw and unfiltered. I wonder, WHEN will that happen to MY writing? Or rather, WHY hasn't that yet happened to my writing? What will it take?!

She doesn't make fake postures or leave out the embarrassments. Like when she was arrested for a DUI and had to (as part of her punishment) become part of a road crew to pick up trash, lift heavy stuff, clean toilets, and other things that I don't associate with what a professor of writing does: "... by day I was out there with my posse while at night I had a fancy visiting writer job teaching budding young MFAS how to make their words more wonderful ... " (page 233).

Reminds me of brilliant standup comedian Jessica Kirson who in an interview explains the work she has done for a project with Robert DeNiro. Rather than stay puffy about that experience and then fake posture about living the life on easy street, she says that one day it's DeNiro, the next day, it's getting booked at a smelly hole in the wall to be heckled by an asshole.

Toward the end of the book, Yuknavich answers the question of what creative writing graduate students should be reading by saying: "Everything. They should read everything they can get their hands on. What they love, what they hate, all of it. You wouldn't jump into an empty pool, would you? Literature is the medium. You have to swim in it" (page 240).

Maybe that's why her writing is superb. Because she experiences everything she can and then writes about everything she has experienced. The parts she loves. The parts she hates. All of it. And maybe that's the secret to being a pool with depth ... to not choose happy or to pretend that that terrible thing didn't happen.

And to do so by not calling oneself brave but to recognize that embedded in between all the hurt are moments of thrill, joy, love, and (as Victor Frankel would say) extreme fulfillment.

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