Bodies of Water

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When Rosanne Cash released her album Interiors in 1990, she not only departed from the country music that had made her a superstar over the previous decade, but crafted a masterpiece that established a new standard for popular music. In its harrowing chronicle of the breakup of a relationship, Interiors confirmed Cash's remarkable talents as a lyricist, with songs that were intelligent and astonishingly frank, songs that with their stark empathy transcended the self-involvement that had come to confine the work ...
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Overview

When Rosanne Cash released her album Interiors in 1990, she not only departed from the country music that had made her a superstar over the previous decade, but crafted a masterpiece that established a new standard for popular music. In its harrowing chronicle of the breakup of a relationship, Interiors confirmed Cash's remarkable talents as a lyricist, with songs that were intelligent and astonishingly frank, songs that with their stark empathy transcended the self-involvement that had come to confine the work of many "confessional" singer-songwriters. The Wheel (1993) was further evidence that she had few equals in her field. As one of our most literate lyricists, Cash naturally began to turn to longer prose pieces, and in her first collection, Bodies of Water, she reveals the full breadth and depth of her talent. These stories are a series of portraits of the inner lives of women seeking self-forgiveness, resolution, and freedom in the face of the familiar betrayals of everyday existence. A mother spends a comically forlorn New Year's Eve alone with her young children. Alone in Paris, a traveler faces her loneliness as middle age approaches. A dinner party becomes a battleground of concealed disappointment. It is at the margins of reality and dreams, the boundaries between art and insanity, that Cash's characters come to learn that their redemption is to be found in facing the past, and finally, in retrieving power from it.

Cash's first literary collection shows her to be a gifted, lyrical prose writer, utilizing the same candor, wit, and sophistication evident in her groundbreaking songs. From delicate, luminous "prose poems" to straightforward, even comic autobiographical essays, Bodies of Water showcases Cash's profound reflections on art, motherhood, spirituality, and performance.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The singer/lyricist whose words put a cerebral edge on country-and-western music moves into fiction with this impressive collection of nine short stories. Cash varies modes here, including epistolary tales ("A Week at the Gore") and prose-poems ("Shelly's Voices"; "The Arc of Loneliness") as well as traditional stories. Each tale is told in the first person, except "Part Girl," the strongest of the lot, which details how Elsa, a middle-aged teacher traversing Europe, comes to understand that the passage of time damages not only monuments but also innocence. Also worthy is the title story, the narrator of which is a musician who finds each of her performances to be a "nightly crucible and reflecting pool." In contrast, the prose poems are relatively inaccessible and beg to be reset in meter. With persistent earnestness, if not skill, Cash takes the reader through women's lives of raw-nerved wakefulness and nightmarish dreaminess. Author tour. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
This tiny first book of stories, with extra-wide margins, is a cut above most celebrity writing, and will even satisfy gossip- seekers with its thinly veiled autobiographical pieces about the pop singer's divorce from Rodney Crowell, her three children, and her own childhood as the daughter of a country music legend.

There's a healthy dose of showbiz self-help nostrums and Hollywood mysticism in these often lyrical pieces. To wit, "The Last Day of the Year" finds the narrator, by now on the verge of divorce, celebrating New Year's Eve in Manhattan with her children and deciding "to let go." "The Arc of Loneliness" meditates further on the topic, post-rehab and post-divorce. Other autobiographical tales include a womanist account of childbirth, a memory of taking acting classes, and a self-serving bit about life on the road ("Under the lights I can face the inconsistencies of my soul"). Cash's pure fictional work varies in quality: "A Week at the Gore" is a series of faxes from a middle-aged mother of two girls who understands her destiny (as a mother) while on vacation in England with her children. A divorced English teacher traveling in Paris discovers the meaning of womanhood as "part girl and part suffering." Another female narrator (in the fabulistic "Shelly's Voices") flirts with insanity and dreams of previous lives and deaths. And in the best piece, "Dinner," a woman of authority and in control, who's braced herself against surprise, is unhinged by the sight of a bleeding stranger.

Occasionally sappy, but sometimes sharp and tough-minded (in a showbiz way): likely to be of interest to fans of the singer and Marianne Williamson.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380729449
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.03 (w) x 7.02 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Rosanne Cash
Rosanne Cash
Rosanne Cash is a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter who has released ten record albums over the post twenty years, which have charted eleven number-one singles and earned numerous accolades for songwriting and performance. Her first book, Bodies of Water, was published in 1995 to widespread critical acclaim. Her essays and fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Oxford-American, and various other periodicals and collections. She also teaches a songwriting workshop. Penelope Jane: A Fairy's Tale is her first book for children. Ms.
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Read an Excerpt

WE ARE BORN

We were looking for a Christmas tree in a little makeshift tree lot next to a department store when I felt the first contraction. I went slowly up and down the rows of pine and spruce behind my husband and my girls, nodding yes, shrugging maybe, as they pointed out their choices. All the while my abdomen was squeezing me with an intensity that felt as if it would like to separate my body into two halves. I was surprised that it was so powerful, so early. I didn't say anything to them, wanting to be sure.

We chose a sweet-smelling Douglas fir and made our way home to thaw our frozen toes and fingers in front of a modest fire, prop the tree in a metal bucket, and dig out the boxes of ornaments. The pains were getting stronger. I went upstairs to lie down, and after a few more contractions, came back down to the living room.

"I'm in labor," I panted to my husband. My doctor, a sweet and shy young man, had been gently adamant that he would induce labor the very next day if it had not occurred naturally by then. I had been anxious about this for the past week, fearing that a whole generation of artificially induced babies would for their entire lives be psychologically out of step with themselves because of their forced entries into the world. When I reached him on the phone the doctor told me to come to the hospital immediately. I asked if I might spend just the afternoon at home, but he was firm. I didn't argue: She was my third baby, she was nearly two weeks overdue and I was already in a lot of pain. My husband and I called the babysitter, got my bag, and drove silently to the hospital.

I am running across a field, past the grape arbor, past the peachorchard, through the tall yellow grass that shimmers in the dry California heat near my grandparents' little white clapboard house. I am eleven years old. I can see the railroad tracks ahead and I can feel the rails on the ground before I even reach them. The smooth, warm steel under my bare feet connects me to the earth, lets me know I'm really here. With all my cells and breath and sweat I just want to get to the tracks. My grandmother is inside the house behind me, baking Scripture cake, which uses only ingredients found in the Bible. The ingredients themselves are listed in her recipe by citation to each relevant chapter and verse, so someone less knowledgeable and virtuous than my grandmother would have to get out her Bible and look them all up. My grandma, however, knows them all by heart.

My grandfather is in the grape arbor, as always tugging at the trousers that bunch up at his crotch, smoking an endless series of hand rolled cigarettes.

My parents are gone, not for good, but they have been in the newspaper, and I have seen it, and something of them is gone for good. I keep running to keep the thing that has vanished from making my chest hurt and my eyes fill with water. I run as if I would never stop. I run because I can almost see myself as an adult, and the murky vision terrifies me. I run because in the world in which I live, men are regarded to be irredeemably selfish and cruel, and women to be unfailingly virtuous. I run because I know I can never truly take my place in that picture.

My husband had stopped shaving on her due date and announced that he would not shave again until she was born. By the time we went to the hospital, a dark, scruffy little beard had grown around his angular face, and circles from the sleepless nights of waiting and not knowing had formed under his blue eyes. As we settled into our mauve and gray hotel-tasteful hospital room, he slipped on a T-shirt that advertised the hotel in Santa Monica where we had conceived this baby during a night of wild lovemaking the previous spring. We had been to an industry conference that night, and after several tedious hours of handshaking and tight little smiles and then a bottle of red wine, we had been ready to let off some steam.

In my hospital room now, I prop up the macrame god's-eyes my girls have made for me as focal objects. When the contractions become too strong and my breathing becomes erratic, I can stare at these blue and red popsicle-stick-and-yarn inventions and find a hole through the blur of pain.

I am really having this baby, I tell myself, after nearly a month of false labor and three disappointing trips to the hospital. I had for gotten how much a contraction actually hurt. I struggled to make myself comfortable. I was nearly two hundred pounds of woman and baby and excess water packed into a five-foot five-inch frame. It was a challenge.

My doctor came in and put his hand up inside me, apparently unconcerned that sever al nurses had already done so and reported their findings to him. I had been four centimeters dilated to a tall nurse with big hands; five centimeters a little nurse with small fingers. He announced that I was between four and five centimeters. I arched my eyebrows in mock surprise and genuine relief as he let his hand slip out.

Copyright © 1996 by Roseanne Cash

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Table of Contents

We are Born 3
The are of Loneliness 19
Acting School 25
Bodies of Water 39
A Week at the Gore 53
Part Girl 71
Shelly's Voices 95
Dinner 107
The Last Day of the Year 123
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2002

    A great book for women

    'Bodies of Water' is an excellent book for women of all ages. If you are just coming into womanhood, middle age, or a grandmother of six- this is a great book to read. The short stories are like poetry in its longest form and hold your attention because of the pure reality that Cash presents. I felt a deep connection with the minds of the women in these stories, a connection to the purity of raw feelings and emotions that we feel every day. I highly recommend reading this book if you want to feel a sense of understanding with who you are as a woman.

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