The reading didn’t happen. I went to my first Gray Skies Reading Series with a marked-up copy of The Chronology of Water in hand only to find that there had been a change in plans. Yuknavich would be rescheduling the reading due to a death in the family. Bummer. Understandable, but still a bummer. There was to be an open mic instead. I enjoyed the open mic and left impressed with the reading series and excited to return to their next and next events. I finished the book and will write the review I promised, though I was hoping that something she said at the reading would help me communicate the wounds and pathways opened by this book in language.
How to begin?
A language bandit, she calls herself, and in many senses she is lawless and resourceful as a bandit must be. With the confidence of Cummings to flout convention and the tenacity of Faulkner to push language to the point where it approximates lifetruth, she tells the story of a woman whose love of language gave her the voice she needed to write her life as she could imagine it, literally and figuratively. She pushes words together, pulls them apart and stretches them wide. She makes up words, alludes to words that came before her, and places one word in place of another in a way that makes shocks logic but makes meaning-sense. She follows conventions of grammar, then breaks them. She lengthens or shortens sentences and paragraphs with courage, grace, and mad rhythm. Straight to the heart. Of the matter. Of feeling. Of memory. My attention to her story never once waned.
She tells us from the beginning that her story is not an addiction memoir, though addiction courses through it and nearly drowns her before the happy ending. It’s also not a story about sexual abuse or sexuality, though the pages throb with details of her scars and her sex. This is a story about a woman who has the strength of a swimmer and who made a “wordhouse” (191) of her life.
WHAT IT MEANT TO ME:
If you endeavor to write, you should read this book. Yuknavitch closes, “It’s a big deal to make a sentence. The line between life and death” (292).
I will admit that reading this book at times discouraged me, filled me with envy. I have tried to write a book something like this, something about how a woman pulls herself up through language and practice. I finished that book, tried to send out into the world and failed, then put it in the proverbial drawer. I have two other books I’m trying to write. Reading this book helped me come to a truth I had been at the edge of: I’m done with that book yet. I haven’t given it my best. I gave up too soon. I may not have the strength of a swimmer (I didn’t even learn until I was twelve), but I have my own strength and a wordhouse of my own.
Even if it’s the only book I ever finish. Even if the wounds if opens break me and my own dexterity with language falls short of success.
The Chronology of Water succeeds on every possible level.
Read it. It quite possibly will change you.