I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

On the first of each month, a guest writer shares how he or she spends the day.

photo credit: Joshua Dillen

photo credit: Joshua Dillen

July 1, 2015: Lidia Yuknavitch

I’ve become obsessed with the truths we tell about ourselves, and the bio on Lidia Yuknavitch’s website begins straight to the point and with the hard truth:

In 1986 my daughter died the day she was born. From her I became a writer.

Ever since May of 2011, I have hoped to feature Lidia in this series. That was when I read The Chronology of Water, which one reviewer admits to considering throwing across the room, but that same reviewer ends with this paragraph:

You should read this book… You’ll grow weary from all the sex (really, mountains of sex), crave some punctuation, and your grammar siren will start screaming. But, if you’re a human, and especially if you’re a human that fancies him- or herself a writer, The Chronology of Water should be mandatory. It’s beyond a study in memoir writing. It’s a study in Lidia Yuknavitch. This is how it should be done.

In The Chronology of Water, the writing fits the life it mirrors. Like the story out of which it grew, it’s

[a]bout fathers and swimming and fucking and dead babies and drowning. Written entirely in random fragments–how I understood my entire life. In the language–image and fragments and non-linear lyric passages–that seemed most precise.

A striking chapter tells the story of a hot pink Schwinn bike “with a banana seat and streamers coming out of the handlebars.” Her father brought it home to cheer her up after her sister left. She was ten and thought “it was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever seen…”

But she didn’t know how to ride a bike.

So when I came outside to touch the hot pink ride, beautiful as she was, all I felt was terror.

Besides being a hell of a story, this is a living, breathing object lesson. How a beautiful pink bike can also be an object of terror. How in a fictional world a bicycle could be beautiful to one character and terrifying to another.

Lidia writes:

In water, like in books–you can leave your life.

About the breakup of her second marriage:

I would have done anything for him. A love unto death. And…
Goddamn it.
I’m already lying. I’m making it all sound literary.
It was messier than that. A lot.

At the end of the book in an interview, Lidia writes:

I do know that when I’m inside writing I don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s like being inside a song or a painting.

9780983477570Before The Chronology of Water, Lidia published three collections of short fiction: Her Other Mouths, Liberty’s Excess, and Real to Reel. Since The Chronology of Water, Lidia has published her first novel, Dora: A Head Case, which begins like this:

Mother is cleaning the spoons again. From where I sit in the kitchen, I can see the reflection of her trippy-looking head: bulbous skull, stretched down mouth, eyes that scoop away at the rest of her face. A droop-faced woman. Jeeeez. Just look at her. She’s rubbing the holy crap out of those spoons. Poor, silvery utensils.

That’s what it felt like to be her kid, too.

81EabYucNRLOn July 7th, her new novel, The Small Backs of Children, makes its way into the world. From its publisher, Harper Collins:

A masterful literary talent explores the treacherous, often violent borders between war and sex, love and art.

With the flash of a camera, one girl’s life is shattered, and a host of others altered forever. . .

In a war-torn village in Eastern Europe, an American photographer captures a heart-stopping image: a young girl flying toward the lens, fleeing a fiery explosion that has engulfed her home and family. The image wins acclaim and prizes, becoming an icon for millions—and a subject of obsession for one writer, the photographer’s best friend, who has suffered a devastating tragedy of her own.

As the writer plunges into a suicidal depression, her filmmaker husband enlists several friends, including a fearless bisexual poet and an ingenuous performance artist, to save her by rescuing the unknown girl and bringing her to the United States. And yet, as their plot unfolds, everything we know about the story comes into question.

Lidia’s website bio ends:

Oh. And I am a very, very good swimmer. Which must be why, as my friend Mia says, I have not drowned. When pulled under, kick.

Come back on JULY 1st to read how LIDIA YUKNAVITCH spends her days.