The Week 7: Lidia Yuknavitch: writer, editrix, brain, heart, body

Here is the time when the Studiola begins to complete its circular self, like when Sophie B. Hawkins released Tongues and Tails, came on David Letterman and shared with him her dream-fantasy of a partnership linked tongue to tail to tongue to tail. Like when I can finally say my enemies are myself in this solo hodgepodge of brain static, like when I return to Baton Rouge for a day to assess my possessions in a 5 x 10 storage unit and say, let’s just take the basics. Like when you decide that you have always known where to begin, you just needed to return to yourself to do it.

Sometime last year I decided I wanted to be a Book Reviewer as a Professional Thing (I had been a book reviewer for fame and glory up until this point.) I spent a long time looking at blogs and feelings expressed and bold upstarts who parlayed their hearts and beliefs into books, and then I decided, I’m going to choose one whose book is coming out and get to know their work and once I find art that stutters me up then I’m going to tell a newspaper/magazine and I’m going to get them to pay me to review it. 

And I did! I found Lidia Yuknavitch, her chiasmus press, her collections, her interviews, her amazingness, all right before Hawthorne released her much acclaimed Chronology of Water. It was a moment when the universe was really good at delivering what I was asking for: a gift that renewed my sense of why one reviews books. A life saver and a survivor; a sick feeling in the pit for timing. Chicago Reader agreed with me. They said yes, you are right here–of course this is what review must be run at once. Do you need a copy of the book? No. I already took care of that.

Please understand: this was an act of choosing what I wanted to pitch and acting like I knew what was up and then getting behind it. I know it’s not brain surgery, and I know everyone wants to run a review of C.O.W. But when you discover something that saves you you feel proud and first and wagon-covered about jumping up and down and telling everyone about it. Yes, little me. Powerful. Telling editors what’s what. I wanted a review run in a publication that had readers who might not ever attend a literary reading or know about independent publishing. I wanted people who might never find this book to find it. wanted to be the finger tapping the shoulder, just like the book had rescued me. That’s a powerful work and a powerful voice, when you are inspired to become a part of an effort to sing out loud about it. That’s why I talk about books!

I received the C.O.W. and held onto it for about 24 feverish hours. I read it and scribbled my ululations, my reactions, my lamentations, across page after page of a notebook–while my students had “silent work” periods and “silent reading” and “silent free writing” and silence, silence, silence. And back in my fifth floor cement fortressed apartment, I had a log of Velveeta to sustain me while I cried and touched and rolled around and bathed in this book. It was a trapdoor. I left my sullen attitude problem for two days straight.

And this thing:

Language is a metaphor for experience. It’s as arbitrary as the mass of chaotic images we call memory—but we can put it into lines to narrativize over fear.

Questions! Answers!

Earlier this spring I sat in a dark little German/Italian restaurant, drinking sangiovese out of a tiny juice glass, and Tyler, back to the summer blog idea, the blog to take me into a new place of joy, he whispered (because the restaurant’s vibe sort of encouraged it): You could ask Lidia Yuknavitch. And it made all the sense of joy and yesyesyesing. Sense making, thanks to when I stop thinking and start listening. And here we are, we’ve come so far, Studiola, we’ve only just approached the beginning.

Ms. Yuknavitch is the author of The Chronology of Water, a memoir from Hawthorne Books, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She has also written three books of short stories, Her Other Mouths, Liberty’s Excess, and Real to Reel. She teaches in Oregon with the filmmaker/writer Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son Miles, where she just finished a novel based on Freud and Dora…but mostly Dora, entitled Dora: A Headcase. (forthcoming from Hawthorne Books). She is the Editrix of chiasmus press.

Thank you so much for visiting, Ms. Yuknavitch. Welcome!

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