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Bough Down

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  783 ratings  ·  127 reviews
With fearlessness and grace, Bough Down reports from deep inside the maelstrom of grief. In this profoundly beautiful and intensely moving lament, artist and writer Karen Green conjures the inscrutable space of love and loss, clarity and contradiction, sense and madness. She summons memory and the machination of the interior mind with the emotional acuity of music as she ...more
Hardcover, 186 pages
Published April 28th 2013 by Siglio
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dfw, pomes
anniversary float, for reasons.

i was afraid to read this book. i was afraid it was going to knock something loose in me, emotionally, and that it would be the book to cut the "i-don't-cry-at-books-karen" to her knees.

this is a book written by dfw's widow, after his suicide, and is a collection of free-verse musings about the end of their lives together, and the period following his death, interspersed with her artwork.

and quickly, so as not to dwell or invite sympathy: i have been there. i have
This is the other side of the curtain for me, the mourning rather than the mourned that outnumber me ten to one. Lots of other little things work for those mentally alike myself, but this right here for me is it. The end all argument. The intractable, inexorable, eternal fail safe of I-will-never-put-another-person-through-this. Ever. I can't say that I'd die before doing so, but for any who have existed inside major depressive disorder and/or any other breed of self-annihilating impulse, you ...more
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I confess to reading this book because it is written by Karen Green, David Foster Wallace's widow. But the experience become so much more than that. This is a heart-wrenching book of loss vividly recreated with just enough occasional slight humor to make it bearable.

Much of the book consists of small blocks of text surrounded by white margins that seem, both visually and textually, to be cries against-against what? The world, the loss, the love she has for the man who is gone. The anger at him
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Karen Green approaches her loss from so many angles: anger (Freckled thing, dont fuck with the psych patients), shame (I call the doctor: I am suffering, its embarrassing, and I need I need I need), guilt (you left the house), the distractions (I cannot keep the love of a dog safe anywhere), other people (there is someone with a rescue complex knocking at my door), and even talking with ghosts.

Her resources to cope are slim: she has the slow healing of time and pills to help her think less.

Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Quite a lovely grief memoir. The fragmented moments are rendered in ways that speak well to the nature of grief as raw and meandering and as beautiful as it can be ugly. There are some particularly wonderful turns of phrase, throughout.

More than once, Green asks her husband's memory if her life, in mourning, is what he imagines as a better existence for her and to see the rage of these questions and to see how much she clearly and genuinely misses him is deeply affecting.

I wondered about the
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
May 06, 2013 marked it as i-want-money
"Untied, Undone: Bough Down by Karen Green" review by Maggie Nelson at LA Review of Books:

"KAREN GREENS NEW and incredibly, her first book Bough Down, from Siglio Press, is an astonishment. It is one of the most moving, strange, original, harrowing, and beautiful documents of grief and reckoning Ive read. The book consists of a series of prose poems, or individuated chunks of poetic prose, interspersed with postage-stamp-sized collages made by Green,
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, poetry
(Art-breath, grief-gasp, madness of love and mind. Will tonight be the night that I actually feel capable of reviewing Bough Down, a book that I've read three times in the past month? Probably not, but I have to try.)

I wonder whether it bothers Karen Green that her identity is wrapped up in his, that all of the praise, heaping and sincere, follows the careful admission that Green is David Foster Wallace's widow. I imagine devotees of his work looking for traces, clues, fingerprints in Green's
David Schaafsma
This is pretty amazing. It's a sort of grief memoir by the wife of David Foster Wallace, an attempt to explore several aspects of her grief. She's an artist and writer, though this is her first book. She alternates postage stamp-sized collages with what seems to be prose poems, or free verse. I'll call it poetry. It's elliptical writing; she's not writing for us as much as for herself, sometimes angry, sad, mystified, all the things you'd expect, but not in any sort of analytical or any other ...more
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Could not put this down--gorgeous & devastating.
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-love
Cheston Knapp (Managing editor): What can I say but the book floored me. For those few who dont know, Green is David Foster Wallaces widow, and though its not formatted this way, the book is basically a journal of her grieving. The entries are jagged and raw, jump around tonally, from lyricism to a kind of throat-punch bluntness, and they accrete in such an overwhelming way that I found myself having to put the book down from time to time. Green is, first and foremost, a visual artist, and shes ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This brought me up short:
Strangers feel free to e-mail:

Nobody knew you before your husband took his life.

Nobody knew me, nobody knew me. I think this may be true.

because I knew very little about Karen Green or her artwork except for the fact that she had created a forgiveness machine after David Foster Wallace took his life.

On another page there is this:
I made our house with what I could gather and the support guys helped. I didn't know I was making that shape. I thought I was making something
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and just achingly sad. For what is essentially a collection of free verse poetry, the entire thing is wonderfully cohesive and really readable. The way Green is able to juggle the articulation of more understandable moments (day to day realities of depression, substance reliance etc.) with the impossible-to-articulate pain of losing a spouse to suicide is nothing short of magnificent. There are individual moments where a certain turn of phrase or couplet hits right in the heart, but ...more
Mar 29, 2014 rated it did not like it

The book I finished before this one, And The Mountains Echoed was more poetic as a novel than this was. This was one of those books that I felt like you had to actively search for meaning or force yourself to be swept away because for every sensible or meaningful sentence, there were ten pages of nonsense. Whereas Mountains just was poetic, Bough Down was so forced and obvious in its intentions to be deep, cryptic, and alternative.

Having finished the book, I still don't know what
Kaitlin Rothberger
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
if you can read this without crying are you human???
Matt Evans
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Death excites people but from a distance, writes Karen Green. She is a pastiche artist. She makes art from small images and fragments of text either written for the nonce purpose of being excerpted or clipped from old books, pulled from old contexts, made anew in her hands. She is an exceedingly exciting writer, and she is a suicides widow.

Karen Greenb knows what shes talking about. Her husband was and is famous, and he belongs now to the world, as ashes belong to the wind, paste themselves to
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
So about 4 years ago I decided to become one of "those people" who read Infinite Jest. It was my "summer project" and to be honest I gave it a very lukewarm response. I felt entitled then to go see "The End of the Tour" last week because I was a member of some self perceived club of people who conquered the work. The movie was depressing and if I wasn't already in the midst of an existential crisis I surely would have been after it was over. My first thought after leaving the theater was not ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking, but in a way that helps us appreciate that grief hurts only because love was there to begin with (and that it continues on).

Ms. Green's talents are many. She laces the book with her own visual art, and her gift for poetic expression is remarkable.

Ms. Green does not speak directly of her late husband David Foster Wallace, but he is implicitly mentioned in many paragraphs and indirectly a part of all of them.

I expect that I will re-read this book many times. It is unique.
Amy Bernhard
Jun 15, 2013 rated it liked it
I'd give this a 3.5 if I could. Some lines just destroyed me: "I don't want him at peace," or "Some of us would rather die than be misunderstood." But other times, the language and imagery was so abstract, I found it difficult to access the emotion like I wanted to. Though admittedly, I prefer a more narrative style.

The mood of the book, though--all the white space, the blank pages--really got to me. I felt spooked. I felt sad. So it's worth a read.
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Too cryptic for me. There were some strong moments, but I kept feeling as though I just didn't know enough about what was going on to really understand.

And, from a practical point of view, the collages made me crazy, because they were so small. I admit I'm very near-sighted (and getting new glasses soon), but I honestly couldn't make out half the images. They might be brilliant, but I wouldn't know.
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic, poetry
I picked this up not knowing a thing about it. I thought it was a very pretty book design and i liked the art and the few pages i read. I then went on to read the whole thing (in basically one ravenous sitting) and pretty much had my heart torn out. What an amazing book. KG is a fantastic writer. It wasn't until I got home and googled her that I realized the husband in the book was another writer I'd read, a famous one. I'm glad I didn't know that going into it. I love this book.
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Amazing, best book I've read in 2015 so far. I didn't want to shell out the almost 40 bucks for this, so I library'd it, but now post-reading realize it is worth buying. Maybe I'll write a better review later but in the meantime you should go obtain this.
Stephanie Kelley
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
nothing I could type here would ever do justice to this work and what it felt like to read it
Bob Wake
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This one sat unread on my shelf since purchasing it as soon as it was published in 2013. Like many fans of David Foster Wallace, I was spooked to read a collection of prose poems and mournful artwork memorializing the late authorwho hanged himself in 2008 at the age of forty-sixwritten by his widow, the artist Karen Green. With my twenty-two-year-old son now reading Infinite Jest, as, before him, I had myself read Infinite Jest twenty-two years ago, I felt I had some memorializing of my own to ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
a little bit devastating, touched with the brutality of loss but graceful and occasionally funny. of course this reads a certain way if you're familiar with karen green's personal situation, but a new critical reading also allows a confessional, guilt filled, and specific text that guides from the point of a loved one's suicide through the process of grief. there's a lot of blank space on each page and in the pages that exist between prose poems, allowing the reader to fill that space with ...more
Fraser Simons
A singular experience. Prose, art, poetry come together in a way that is elusive until it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy surrounding the heart of grief. I took quite a few pictures of some of the most beautiful prose Ive read followed by opaque art; something Ive always found hard to intercept. And even as I got to the ending, and I wondered what ending could be appropriate, it offers not even a subjective conclusion. Also thematically appropriate, I thought. ...more
Josephine Quealy
This was beautiful and, for me, captured perfectly what it is to grieve and what it is to feel around inside the mysterious hole that is suicide, searching for a meaning, or an explanation, or something that will complete your understanding, and draw back an empty hand.
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Review coming soon for this fantastically f***ing sad, elegiac masterpiece. I need to gather myself.
May 06, 2013 marked it as to-read
from the LARB: "Karen Green's new and incredibly, her first book Bough Down, from Siglio Press, is an astonishment. It is one of the most moving, strange, original, harrowing, and beautiful documents of grief and reckoning Ive read. The book consists of a series of prose poems, or individuated chunks of poetic prose, interspersed with postage-stamp-sized collages made by Green, who is also a visual artist. Collectively the text bears witness to the 2008 suicide of her husband, the writer David ...more
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stunning portrait of grief and confusion and pharmacology in detail. #moveoverdidion


"I worry I broke your kneecaps when I cut you down. I keep hearing that sound. We fly from the world, right, like shrapnel angels, but why is everything so laden around here?

Your legs were elegant, and you crossed them elegantly, not like a boy pretending his jewels were too big." --p.29

"You've won every argument except the one about my being better off. Nobody laughs at my jokes as hard you. Is this what
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
There are some really great passages in the book about the mess grief can leave behind:

"The child at the pharmacy admonishes me: "Next time, you and your doctor need to call in ahead of time so this sort of thing doesn't happen. This is a controlled substance." I ask her if the reason there are tissue boxes at each window is because people cry there. I pose this question instead of detailing the cause of my symptoms. "The tissues are for germs." Freckled thing, don't fuck with the psych
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