I don’t know about you, but I have a really difficult time reading for pleasure. As a writer, it’s very rare for me to get lost in a book or story, even if it’s really good. My attention has always been this way: after a sentence or two, I dwell on the author’s choices. I question their motives or commend their integrity. I think about their technique (why did they choose the word “wet” instead of “moist”? Why chronological structure? Why not present tense?)
I’m picky. It takes me forever to read a book; if only I could turn off that voice in my head and JUST READ. Once, a friend of mine suggested I embrace some “brain junk food” bring the book Twilight with me on vacation. I couldn’t even finish the first chapter before tossing the book into the sand and sighing dramatically.
I used to get so frustrated with my choppy reader’s pace. Then I took a class called “Reading for Writers” and learned I was not alone, and that this was a good habit, one that should be nurtured. The class, taught at Sarah Lawrence College by a brilliant woman named Suzanne Hoover, one of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my entire life, encouraged and justified this somewhat neurotic way of reading. Suzanne showed us new ways of dissecting narratives and their technique. She told us, when we study the craft of other writers, we improve our own. It was like taking the blue pill.
Last Spring, I brought Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir, The Chronology of Water with me on vacation to Mexico. Hers was to be my beach read. I had my pencil and small notepad with me, ready to dissect. But for the first time in a long time, I didn’t. For the first time in a long time, the book took over. It wasn’t a light, fun, easygoing beach read. Rather, I got lost in Lidia’s narrative, Lidia’s life. I was not on a beach in Mexico. I was in Lidia’s head. It’s fitting that her book is called “The Chronology of Water”, because, despite being emotionally wrenching, the story is incredibly fluid. It just swept me away without me realizing it. I’m not sure what this implies, but I think it means that it’s a damn good book. Like a conversation that begins at dinner and suddenly, you look up and it’s 3 a.m. Without your permission but without your resistance, either, you get carried away.
Today on Freshly Hatched, Freerange is honored to be publishing an essay by the fierce and talented Lidia Yuknavitch herself:
When I was seven I asked Merrit Douglas to pee on me. Merrit was the only black kid at our school and I adored him so much that when I stared at him my eyes shivered. He was the only kid I ever wanted to play with or talk to or sit by. He smelled like grass and fresh rain. His mom had to have used fabric softener. He wore thick black rimmed glasses and a mini-fro, and on the day we had school pictures taken, he wore a short sleeved white pressed button down shirt and a tie. A tie. READ MORE HERE.
I hope you get taken out of your thoughts and lost in hers.
Have a wonderful week.
Founder & Executive Director of Freerange Nonfiction