When visiting the Eugene Public Library, a bi-monthly event, I sit down at a computer and do a quick search for memoirs. I snatch one of those little square white slips of paper and one of those baby pencils with no erasers and scrawl out the call number and the first four letters of the author’s last name. Usually the memoirs are found in section 921. I write down about 7 books, knowing that I’ll be unable to locate a couple of them, for whatever reason, and that one or two I’ll end up not liking at all, upon seeing the cover, upon reading the first few lines. I’ll leave with four books or so. I’ll get ’em home and read half of those. Right now, for example, I’ve got a book called Patty’s Got A Gun, it’s about Patty Hearst. I read a little bit but it didn’t catch me because, as intriguing as the story is, I already know the gist of it and the author’s writing isn’t making me feel like he’s going to tell me anything new. The author’s writing. The author’s writing.
I used to be a big believer in fate. Not so much in destiny really, but that if I sort of held my hands out in front of me and closed my eyes and slowly walked (figuratively, for the most part) toward the places and people and trees and parks and coffee shops that felt good, that felt right, warm, light, loving, that I would end up where it was appropriate for me to be that if I had mindlessly walked into life that day. That I would end up where I was supposed to be. I used to look for signs everywhere pointing me to these places. I used to keep my eyes wide-open. I used to. I used to. That was a long time ago. Since then I’ve realized that I hold the power, regardless of how spiritually mindful I am being or not, to make things happen in my life, to change things, to get what I want, to make decisions. It’s almost as if it’s entirely up to me, and not depending upon the Universe at all. This took a while to come to terms with, being that I was raised up by such a religious father. My father always told me things like “God will take care of it.” Now, whether it was the Universe leading me to Lidia Yuknavitch’s book or that I just happened upon it: I feel that this was meant to happen. Not predetermined, just meant to happen. At this time. Not one month ago, not one year from now. Now. I’m having one of those: ohmigod, what if I had never come across this book/person/story/insight feelings.
Let me tell you more…when I did that computer search for memoirs roughly a week and a half ago I came across a book description that mentioned something about a drowning. A drowning? Hey–I know about a drowning! My Dad drowned, wait, almost, you know, not quite. Done. I wrote down the call number and the letters YUKN. My boyfriend was with me that day and he and I set out to find my memoirs. If I remember right, he found the first memoir, handed it to me, I mentioned something about it having a beautiful cover, and I tucked it under my arm, almost instinctively. I got that book about Patty Hearst, which had been mistakenly filed under her last name, like it was her book, like it was a memoir. I didn’t look twice at that book, it was like once I had Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water, I was all ready to go home and start reading.
When I began reading the book, I was instantly impressed with Lidia’s poetic writing. I said aloud to my boyfriend in the car, “she just called her still-born baby ‘little dead girlfish’. That’s awesome.” I looked at him and quickly said, “but not, you know, of course, but, I mean, who does that? Nice...” We got home and I put the book away and got busy for a few days with a ballet recital and family visiting and I forgot about the book. Not entirely of course. I picked it back up and got sucked into the story when I discovered that Lidia’s father was some sort of incest rapist. Love that. Hate that. Hate that. Hate that. Of course. But does it make for good reading? Yes. Some people (like my great aunts and grandma’s and grandpa’s) like to cover things up and ignore them and pretend like they never happened like an unmarked grave but I like to investigate the story a little bit. As much as it hurts and makes me puke in my mouth. I’m on page 195 and Lidia’s drawn out her family’s story like my Dad used to do with his loogies over a bridge (ew, gross) and I still don’t know what did or did not happen. I still don’t know if when Lidia’s dad took the family to Mount Rainier to get a Christmas tree if her sister’s face got all red and teary because she fell down and hit her rib on a rock or if her dad had just fucked her face. That’s how good Lidia is…she still hasn’t told us. Me? I wrote my sex abuse scene all in one chapter, titled it “Does that tickle?”
I’ve got a lot to learn from Lidia Yuknavitch. Just like she had a lot to learn from Ken Kesey. About one-quarter way through the book, Lidia moves to Eugene. Eugene! That’s where I live! I’ve read other books where people move to Eugene but within a page or two they pick up and move somewhere else, like I’ve sometimes wanted to do. But Lidia, she stayed. Lidia knows that where a person lives does not make or break them. Unlike me, Lidia doesn’t say “I just feel like I’m supposed to be somewhere else” or “It will all come together when I live there and am doing that.” Lidia stays in Eugene for a decade or more and starts off going to creative writing classes at the U of O, classes that she isn’t even paying for, isn’t even signed up for, and she learns that although she feels like she can’t do anything right, she can write. She can write. Lidia stays in Eugene and she learns how to write, amidst a sea of people she feels she is nothing like. She goes to seminars with a flask tucked in her pocket and she fucks the author speaker, man or woman, at the Best Western down the road, the same Best Western where my family just stayed at when they were in town, visiting. She drives the same road I do to get to the coast and she lives in the same neighborhood, just closer to the train tracks.
I google Lidia Yuknavitch and discover that she was recently at the U of O presenting a lecture at the Memoir Fest. I knew about the Memoir Fest but decided not to go because it’s on campus and you know, I’m so above and beyond that and what does campus want with me anyway? I should’ve tucked a flask under my arm and gone. I should’ve, I should’ve.
I read some more and discovered that Lidia Yuknavitch has a Writer’s Workshop! In Portland! In September! It’s not full yet and it’s happening, it really is, on Tuesday’s, at 6:30! (If you can’t tell, I totally plan on going. And if you don’t know me, know that when I say I’m going, I go. I’ll just pretend to hear your “I’m so happy for you!” Dude, it only costs, like 150 bucks.)
I haven’t finished reading the book yet. When I have a good book I like to draw it out like my dad’s loogy. Speaking of dad’s…remember how Lidia’s book description talked about the tragedy around drowning, or almost drowning? That was her dad, her dad almost drown. She still hasn’t gotten back to that. It’s sort of hanging out in the air. I want to know what happened but I wouldn’t imagine most readers do, because nobody cares, because he was a rapist. Lidia’s got a lot of loose ends to tie up in this book, but whether she does or doesn’t, I don’t care. That’s how good this book is. I can dig any book that talks about broken women and lots of sex and S & M and men and women that behave like men and writing and drugs and more drugs and hope and hopE and hoPE and hOPE and more HOPE and VICTORY. I can dig a book that breaks all the rules. I can dig Lidia Yuknavitch.