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The Chronology of Water: A Memoir [NOOK Book]

Overview

INTRODUCTION BY CHELSEA CAIN: This is not your mother’s memoir. In The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch expertly moves the reader through issues of gender, sexuality, violence, and the family from the point of view of a lifelong swimmer turned artist. In writing that explores the nature of memoir itself, her story traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman’s developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women. Her emergence as a writer evolves at ...
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The Chronology of Water: A Memoir

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Overview

INTRODUCTION BY CHELSEA CAIN: This is not your mother’s memoir. In The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch expertly moves the reader through issues of gender, sexuality, violence, and the family from the point of view of a lifelong swimmer turned artist. In writing that explores the nature of memoir itself, her story traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman’s developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women. Her emergence as a writer evolves at the same time and takes the narrator on a journey of addiction, self-destruction, and ultimately survival that finally comes in the shape of love and motherhood.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780983304906
  • Publisher: Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 164,018
  • File size: 421 KB

Meet the Author

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. Her work has appeared in Ms., The Iowa Review, Exquisite Corpse, Another Chicago Magazine, Fiction International, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. Her book Real to Reel was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and she is the recipient of awards and fellowships from Poets and Writers and Literary Arts, Inc. Her work appears in the anthologies Life As We Show It (City Lights), Forms At War (FC2), Wreckage of Reason (Spuytin Duyvil). In addition she is the founder and publisher of Chiasmus Press and teaches writing, literature, film, and Women’s Studies at Mount Hood Community College in Oregon.

CHELSEA CAIN was born in 1972, lived the first few years of her life on a hippie commune in Iowa, and grew up in Bellingham, Washington. Her first novel featuring Detective Archie Sheridan and serial killer Gretchen Lowell, HEARTSICK, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback and has been translated into over 20 languages. SWEETHEART and EVIL AT HEART, the second and third in the series, respectively, are also NYT bestsellers. Chelsea is a former columnist for The Oregonian, and a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.
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Read an Excerpt

The Less Than Merry Pranksters

Kesey, who was at the far end of the room, walked his barrel of a body straight over, pulled out a chair for me, and said, “Well HELLO. What do we have here? A triple A tootsie.” It was the first time I’d seen him not in a photo or at some Oregon literary event. The closer he came, the more nauseous I felt. But when he got right up to me, I could see the former wrestler in his shoulders and chest. His face was moon pie round, his cheeks vividly veined and flushed, puffy with drink. His hair seemed like cotton glued in odd places on a head. His smile: epic. His eyes were transparent blue. Like mine.
While everyone was laughing about the tootsie remark he leaned down and whispered in my ear, “I know what happened to you. Death’s a motherfucker.”
In 1984, Kesey’s son Jed, a wrestler for the University of Oregon, was killed on the way to a wrestling tournament when the team’s bald-tired van crashed. My baby girl died the same year. Close to my ear, he smelled like vodka. Familiar.
He handed me a flask and we got along and bonded quickly the way strangers who’ve seen aliens can. That’s all it took. No one ever questioned me, least of all Kesey. It was brilliantly incomprehensible to me. I loved it.
I was 25.
At a reading at U of O during that year Kesey stood on a table and screaming into the microphone “Fuck You, god, Fuck You!” The crowd of about 500 burst into cheers. He believed in spectacle. In giving people the show.



My distinguishing characteristics felt like tits and ass and blond. Sexual things. All I had.


In the winter of the year of Kesey we all went to his coast house near Yachats together. A run down old place with wood paneling, a crappy stand up shower, a table with some chairs, and no heat. But the front windows looked out onto the ocean. And of course the rooms were filled with Kesey. We drank, we walked on the beach, we listened to Kesey stories. Look I’d tell you the stories but you already know them. And he’d say the same ones over and over again. We were, simply put, a pile of new ears. At the coast house we listened to stories about Tim Leary and Mason Williams and Jerry Garcia and Neal Cassady. At the coast house we got high, some of us fucked some others of us, we wrote in little notebooks. We slept on the floor in sleeping bags. We waited for something to happen.
It wasn’t until the following year, the year that was not the collaborative writing class, the year after the book we wrote that was not very good came out that made me feel like we’d utterly failed Kesey, the year after he’d ended up in the Mayo clinic for his affair with his lover, vodka, we met once at his coast house by ourselves.
That night he boiled water and cooked pasta and dumped a jar of Ragu on it and we ate it with bent old forks. We drank whiskey out of tin cups. He told life stories. That’s what he was best at. Me? I didn’t have any stories. Did I? When it got dark he lit some crappy looking ancient candles. We sat in two wooden chairs next to each other looking out at the moonlit water. I distinctly remember trying to sit in the chair older and like I had been part of history. Which amounted to extending my legs out and crossing one ankle over the other and crossing my arms over my chest. I looked like Abe Lincoln.
Then he said, “What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you in your life?”
I sat there like a lump trying to conjure up the best thing that had ever happened to me. We both already knew what the worst thing was. Nothing best had happened to me. Had it? I could only answer worst. I looked out at the ocean.
Finally I said, “Swimming.”
“Why swimming?” he said, turning to look at me.
“Because it’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at,” came out of my mouth.
“That’s not the only thing you are good at.” And he put his huge wrestler writer arm around me.
Fuck. This is it. Here it comes. His skin smelled . . . well it smelled like somebody’s father’s skin. Aftershave and sweat and whiskey and Ragu. He’s going to tell me I’m good at fucking. He’s going to tell me I’m a “tootsie”—the nickname he’d used on me the year of the class. And then I’m going to spread my legs for Ken Kesey, because that’s what blond clueless idiots do. I closed my eyes and waited for the hands of a man to do what they did to women like me.
But he didn’t say any of those things. He said, “I’ve seen a lot of writers come and go. You’ve got the stuff. It’s in your hands. What are you going to do next?”
I opened my eyes and looked at my hands. They looked extremely dumb. “Next?” I said.
“You know, in your life. What’s next?”
I didn’t have a plan. I had grief. I had rage. I had my sexuality. I liked books more than people. I liked to be drunk and high and fuck so I didn’t have to answer questions like this.
When I got home I cut all the hair off on the left side of my head, leaving two different women looking at me in the mirror. One with a long trail of blond half way down her back. The other, a woman with hair cropped close to her head and with the bone structure of a beautiful man in her face.
Who.
Am.
I.
I never saw Kesey again. His liver failed and he got Hepatitis C. In 1997 he had a stroke. Later he got cancer and died. But I’m of the opinion he drowned.
There are many ways to drown.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 11, 2013

    Groundbreaking, heartbreaking, hope-making.

    I LOVED this book. Yuknavitch's voice and style are incredible, intimate and lyrical. It's hard to explain, but parts of it settled down inside my heart and stuck, and other parts wrapped around me like a blanket. You should read this book. Everyone should.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Astounding Read

    I was a little hesitant when reading this book at first. From the first page, I could tell it was going to be an emotional experience and unlike a book I have ever read. I was quickly proven wrong; the book immersed me in a way I have never felt before. Ms. Yuknavitch is a master wordsmith and a powerful storyteller. Her writing challenges everything we think of as what writing is. Her use of water imagery throughout the book is profound and compelling; as are her images of life and death. This is one of my new favorite books, definitely in my top 5 favorites of all time. Ms. Yuknavitch has become one of my favorite authors overnight. I adore this book and its author.
    One thing I do not like is the bellyband that encompasses the book! TAKE IT OFF!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2012

    A very good book....

    Gave me a different out look on life.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2012

    Dark and thought provoking. An intriguing read, but not for everyone.

    This was a book selected by my book club. I enjoyed the uncommon structure and blunt tone of how the story was told. Though very explicit about many of her life events, the author was intentionally vague on a key element of the narrative, which led to confusion.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2012

    Great Book

    I bought this book because it was recommended by Chuck Palahniuk. Excellent read.

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  • Posted January 13, 2012

    Loved it gasping for more

    I cried, I laughed, I wondered how did this woman get inside of me to my core. I danced around and around with excitement in feeling like I am not alone through Lidia Yuknavitch's words which I read again and again.

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  • Posted May 6, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    An inspiring story of survival, love and truth told laughing through the tears.

    (This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown)

    "Given a choice between grief and nothing, I choose grief."
    -William Faulkner

    I wasn't prepared for this memoir, this baptism by fire that Lidia Yuknavitch pours out onto the pages of The Chronology of Water (Hawthorne Books). I was aware of the controversy about the exposed breast on the cover, the grey band of paper wrapped around the book to appease those who can't stand to see such obscenity. I was lured in by the glowing testimonials of authors I know and respect, people like Chuck Palahniuk, Monica Drake, and Chelsea Cain (who writes the introduction), her close-knit group of fellow authors, her workshop, support group, therapy and champions. But no, I wasn't prepared for her voice-the power, the lyrical passages, and the raw, crippling events that destroyed her youth, but made her the woman she is today: fearless, funny, honest, and kind. By not being prepared, the opening lines hit me hard, and I in fact stopped for a moment, realizing that this was going to be bumpy ride, a dark story, but one that held nothing back. So I took a breath, and I went under:

    "The day my daughter was stillborn, after I held the future pink and rose-lipped in my shivering arms, lifeless tender, covering her face in tears and kisses, after they handed my dead girl to my sister who kissed her, then to my first husband who kissed her, then to my mother who could not bear to hold her, then out of the hospital room door, tiny lifeless swaddled thing, the nurse gave me tranquilizers and a soap and sponge. She guided me to a special shower. The shower had a chair and the spray came down lightly, warm. She said, That feels good, doesn't it. The water. She said, you are still bleeding quite a bit. Just let it. Ripped from vagina to rectum, sewn closed. Falling water on a body."

    I am a father, but I am not a mother. I know the difference. I was there when my twins were born, my boy and my girl pulled out into the harsh lights of the sterile, cold hospital room. I watched them cut my wife open, and I saw the pool of blood on the tile creep ever closer to the little blue booties on my feet. It was violent and beautiful-it was a miracle and a shock. But it was life-my life continued, our children, finally here. To have it end in death? If one of them (I can barely even utter the word BOTH) had died, I would have been hollowed out, gutted. I am not a mother, but my heart went out to her in the opening sentences of this novel. She had me. And this was the first page of the book. What could possibly come next? Where would this go? How do you climb above this, survive? In a number of ways: you scream and you cry, you drink yourself to oblivion, you hallucinate other worlds, you bond and you break, you hide and you seek, and if you're lucky, you are seen, you are found.

    (For the full review, go to The Nervous Breakdown)

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    Posted July 19, 2011

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    Posted September 10, 2011

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    Posted April 10, 2011

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    Posted January 31, 2012

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    Posted November 29, 2011

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    Posted January 19, 2013

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    Posted January 11, 2013

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    Posted May 6, 2011

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    Posted July 31, 2011

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