|advice from Jeannette Winterson, via dailyfig.figment.com|
First of all, I should say Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!
And now onto my next mini book review --
I'm a big memoir reader -- I plow through them like dark chocolate and potato chips -- and after a while, one confessional runs into the next, another story of incredible survival, demented parents, religious conversion, and serial adultery. I read so many memoirs that I bought a Kindle to better contain them, ease my spending and make more room in my library for the literature I really love. But occasionally, a memoir reads like literature, is, in fact, literature -- Mark Doty's Heaven's Coast, comes to mind, and Ian Brown's The Boy in the Moon -- and this year, I liked Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeannette Winterson the best of all the memoirs I read. It's a book about language and literature and the necessity of art and reading. It's about deep trauma and sexual identity and mothering and love. It is wise and funny, horrifying and incredibly sad. When I heard Winterson talking about it on some radio show, I was drawn to her speaking voice and cadence, and while reading the book, I heard it in every word. I also couldn't resist a book with that title -- a question asked of Winterson by her painfully inept adoptive mother.
I believe in fiction and the power of stories because that way we speak in tongues. We are not silenced. All of us, when in deep trauma, find we hesitate, we stammer; there are long pauses in our speech. The thing is stuck. We get our language back through the language of others. We can turn to the poem. We can open the book. Somebody has been there for us and deep-dived the words.
Jeannette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?