The line between admirer and stalker is in the eye of the beholder. To me, Lidia Yuknavitch brings out the 13 year old in me that went to Monkees concerts, had Monkees posters on my walls, and wore Monkees t-shirts everyday. She conjures my inner screaming fan complete with the high pitch squeal. Annoying, I know. But the Chronology of Water makes me forget how to act with restraint.
So why am I so bat-shit crazy about Lidia Yuknavitch? It all started with the first line of the Acknowledgments in her memoir, The Chronology of Water:
“If you have ever fucked up in your life, or if the great river of sadness that runs through us all has touched you, then this book is for you.”
Why, yes, Lidia, I have fucked up in my life. Frequently even. I have wallowed in that great river of sadness. And although I read close to 100 memoirs in my MFA program, this was the first one that said fuck as often as I did.
She didn’t apologize for being damaged. She didn’t think her damage made her less beautiful. She didn’t apologize for having nonbinary sexuality or making bad decisions or any of the things people get shamed for over and over again. She wrote lines that made me want to cry, and she wrote them in a way that made say, “Yes, that! Exactly that!”
“Though only some of us are carrying daughter rage secrets in our skin and bones.” (Chronology of Water, Kindle page 28)
Yuknavitch creates neologisms: screamsong, wordhouse, obscenitydivinity, bloodsong, bloodword. She inserts prose poems and sections of stream of consciousness and enjambed lines. In short, Yuknavitch makes language fit her story, allows the form to emerge fluidly, instead of the other way around. Other people’s rules? Yuknavitch is not constrained by them.
That doesn’t mean The Chronology of Water is uncontrolled. Just because Yuknavitch has invented her own rules doesn’t mean that rules do not exist. Intentional. Measured. Someone else could not get away with this. But the voice is authentic. It is like a very honest conversation with a good friend. It made me yearn to write my own story as beautifully, and cry because I couldn’t do it as well as I wanted to.
This review reeks of the rabid fan. I know. I can’t help it. I am a self-appointed evangelist for the Chronology of Water. I even sent it to my seventy year old mother. But, like many people half-crazed with religion, I am not always capable of coherent conversation on the subject. Let me try to make a more persuasive argument. Yuknavitch writes about abuse, masturbation, sexuality, drug use. She writes about terrible grief and defiant strength. The Chronology of Water made me want to be more myself, more Lara. I wanted to find my own inner fuck you. The truth is, I’m not very bold. I’m someone who has always cared too much about what the wrong people thought of me. The Chronology of Water reminded me of the strength and beauty of art.
OK, so I might have had a glass of wine and invited Lidia Yuknavitch to fly to Key West with me for Thanksgiving via Facebook messenger, or perhaps conned my SigO into doing it for me. Which she might have ignored. But I stopped there. I did not drive by her house, send packages of baked goods or extraneous body parts. I reigned it in and went back to my computer to write my own truth, this time a little stronger, a little louder. Now I pay closer attention to language and less attention to other people’s rules.
“I want you hear how it feels to be me inside a sentence.[…] I want the image, the cry to remain with your body.” —Chronology of Water, page 274
Yeah, Lidia, me too.
Lara Lillibridge delights in singing off-beat and dancing off-key while pursuing her Master’s in Creative Nonfiction. She has had essays published in Vandalia, on the web at Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, The Feminist Wire, Airplane Reading, Thirteen Ways to Tell a Story, and Brain, Child magazine’s Brain, Mother blog. (website, twitter)