GRACE NOTES - FEBRUARY 2020
THE CRYING BOOK BY HEATHER CHRISTLE
Crying is one of the most human things that we do. It is an all-purpose activity. We cry to express grief, joy, anger, fatigue, frustration. Those of us who cry easily are in constant struggle to not only control our tears but to understand the very nature of them and the reasons behind them.
Poet Heather Christle wrote The Crying Book as a way of working through her grief at losing a friend and the experience of giving birth for the first time. Told in bite-sized morsels, similar to Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, the book is a poetic treatise on tears in all their permutations, as well as a fearless examination of her own depression. She examines the act of crying through a myriad of lenses, from the scientific to the bizarre to the achingly personal. She cites research that the tears shed when chopping onions are different chemically than tears shed through grief. She examines the phenomenon of “white tears” - the weaponization of the tears of white women in today’s racially charged atmosphere. She tells of a student who developed a tear gun that collects, freezes, and shoots tears as a means of getting back at a professor who made her cry.
Interspersed between the quirky and the sociological are Christle’s insights into her own tears. These are some of the most effective passages, in which her poet’s voice comes to the fore. Early in the book, she writes, “I fear that to write so much about crying will tempt a universal law of irony to invite tragedy into my life.” Later, “...I know I need to stop crying for long enough that I regain my capacity to imagine possibilities again.” Her struggle both affects and informs her art: “I do not want to cry. I want to be a poet. I want to look at the words with a dry and unswollen face.”
The Crying Book is well-researched and informative, but above all, it is filled with heart and a longing to understand the depth and breadth of human emotion.
Coming in April!
THE PRETTIEST STAR BY CARTER SICKELS
Have a box of tissues ready. This book will break your heart. Brian, suffering from AIDS in 1986, has returned to his home in Bible-belt southern Ohio. He has come to reconnect with his family and to die. His story is told through his mother’s and sister’s viewpoint, and through the lens of Brian’s own camera, as he videotapes his experience. As might be expected for the time and place, he encounters bigotry, ignorance, and violence, sometimes from his own family members. Yet threads of redemption run through the narrative, as an entire town is changed by having a mirror held up to its intolerance. Your heart and tear-ducts will be wrung dry.
FOR FURTHER READING -