The Chronology of The Chronology of Water

When I file this under Books Like Mine, I don’t really mean that my dog memoir would sit on the shelf next to this memoir about sexual abuse, promiscuity, and substance use. They’re both memoirs. I guess that’s all they have in common.

Mine is straightforwardly linear. We get a dog. We love the dog. Dog bites someone. We work with trainers. Dog dies. (As I said in one of my sessions at Hedgebrook, “Sorry, that’s a terrible elevator pitch.” I can do better, but this isn’t about me.) Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water is less chronological. Like water, as Bruce Lee might say.

water

Gratuitous picture of Isis frolicking … in water.

Hers is a stunningly beautiful book.

Yuknavitch’s writing style is nothing like mine. Her book reads like stream of consciousness. If the prologue hadn’t told me that she was in a writing group with Chuck Palahniuk and Cheryl Strayed, I might have guessed this book was printed as it came out of her head, with no revisions. Not to say that she needs an editor, but that her lyrical writing reads as effortless.

This is a self-aware memoir; she writes lines like, “But that’s not what I want to tell you about. I want to tell you about this instead.” She bounces around in chronology, but at no point do you get confused and wonder where you are. She mentions a second husband, and you don’t say, “Wait, who’s this second husband? Has she mentioned him before?” You know that she will give you all the information you need when you need it. I wonder how she decided how to order the chapters. When to tell us what.

Implicit in the narrative is the idea that having been sexually abused by her father as a young girl, Yuknavitch became a sexually aggressive young woman and experimented heavily with drugs. But she’s clear that hers is not a story of addiction. (Although I know from watching Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Sex Rehab that frequently promiscuity is a result of having been abused as a child.)

Yuknavitch doesn’t give a lot of specifics about the abuse, although she does depict her consensual sex acts in shocking, vivid detail. She doesn’t overly reflect on what it all means. She just tells the story for us to make of it what we will. I appreciate that.

4 thoughts on “The Chronology of The Chronology of Water

  1. I think that would bother me, not knowing what it all means, but then again, maybe not. I tend to stay away from memoirs, though, and gravitate towards fiction.

    I love the gratuitous Isis shot!

  2. I think the meaning came across in a “show don’t tell” kind of way. I’d rather see that than get hit over the head. I’ve been reading a lot of memoir, since I’m writing one. (You’ll like it, it’s about Isis!) And I agree, it’s very annoying to read a book that makes you scream, “What’s the point?” But it also bugs me when they hammer at something so much, I’m thinking, “I get it already!”

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