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La cronología del agua

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De los escombros de su problemática juventud, Lidia Yuknavitch teje una asombrosa historia de supervivencia. Una memoria que es un canto a la búsqueda de la belleza, la expresión personal, el deseo —hacia los hombres y las mujeres—, y el poder sanador del nado. En la cronología del agua la vida queda expuesta, desnuda. Es una vida que navega y trasciende el abuso paterno, la adicción, la autodestrucción y la insoportable pérdida de una hija. Es la vida de una inadaptada —una que recorre un camino feroz y no transitado hacia la creatividad— en un ejercicio de reconciliación y amor propio.

348 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 2011

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About the author

Lidia Yuknavitch

38 books2,056 followers
Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of the National Bestselling novels The Book of Joan and The Small Backs of Children, winner of the 2016 Oregon Book Award's Ken Kesey Award for Fiction as well as the Reader's Choice Award, and the novel Dora: A Headcase, Her widely acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water was a finalist for a PEN Center USA award for creative nonfiction and winner of a PNBA Award and the Oregon Book Award Reader's Choice. Her nonfiction book based on her TED Talk, The Misfit's Manifesto, is forthcoming from TED Books.

She founded the workshop series Corporeal Writing in Portland Oregon, where she teaches both in person and online. She received her doctorate in Literature from the University of Oregon. She lives in Oregon with her husband Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son, Miles. She is a very good swimmer.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,765 reviews
Profile Image for tee.
239 reviews244 followers
July 29, 2012
I am sitting here in a dazed stupor, sleep-deprived and my head buzzing with the tinnitus that comes with insomnia. I couldn't put this fucking book down. I don't know if I have connected with a book like I did this one since the days when I discovered Winterson. I devoured this book. I'm still not full, I want more. I read it in 50 page chunks without noticing the passing of time. 1am, 3am. It was less than ten degrees and yet I couldn't move to fetch another blanket. I paused at 5.30 this morning to cut up some apples to eat with a half cup of coconut yoghurt, which I spilt down the front of myself as I shovelled it in, too absorbed in Lidia's writing to concentrate on the whereabouts of my fork. I simultaneously savoured and rushed through this book, her words streaming through my head only to find that I was breathing fast, shallowly, emitting puffing bursts of exhaled air as chapters ended. Red cheeks, tingling legs. I'm still buzzing and the day has taken on that sublime surreal quality that comes with a combination of no sleep and a night of passionate indulgence. Everyone else can get fucked, I'm divorcing all my other imaginary spouses and locking myself up in a tower on an island where Lidia will read this book over and over to me until I die.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 118 books157k followers
March 1, 2011
The Chronology of Water is stunning. I read it in three hours, ignoring everything. It is a book that literally cannot be put down. I can't think straight to talk about it the book is so good so just read it already.
Profile Image for Paul.
103 reviews30 followers
February 27, 2012
Call me "old-fashioned", "conservative", whatever, but this was a very irritating book. Yes, I'm sure some of what she wrote was *meant* to be vexing and maybe even irritating, but it was just too much for me.

For one thing, I don't like the whole psychological attitude of "I had a rough childhood and that was my excuse for ruining the next few decades of my life". Sorry, it just comes off as whiny and immature, when there are so many others who, in the face of adversity, can rise above it in a vastly more respectable manner.

She freely admits (more than once) how she would drink and drive, ultimately resulting in her tragic head-on collision with a woman who she describes as a "5' tall brown skinned pregnant woman"—yes, six or seven months pregnant, at that. Oh, and that's just the tip of the iceberg; there seem to be decades of her life that were a mere blur involving every kind of drug, every kind of sexual deviation (including some weird fetish involving *breaking into people's homes* to do it there, along with stealing their alcohol and drugs), every kind of crime (possibly short of murder), and so on. The whining goes on and on for half the book, where you watch her unapologetically throw her life away, throw her scholarship away, throw everything that matters away... with zero remorse.

And the "zero remorse" carries through into the present, where you can't help but feel as though she would do it all again the same, given the opportunity. It also carries through in her storytelling, in how she seems to think that things like "slitting the tires of Republicans" and "steal[ing] all the heads of roses" from gardens, is not something about which even now she should be remorseful or express any fault.

Then there is the bitter, but almost ironic, story which opens the book with the tragic birth of her stillborn child. Inexplicably, though, that one life lost tugged pretty seriously at her heartstrings, while her *multiple* abortions seemed to have, in contrast, zero effect on her.

Also, there was the smattering of transparent, unabashed, overt name-dropping all over the place (Ken Kesey, Kathy Acker, etc.) and what antics she was up to with them that just seemed like too much. Some of it was clearly legitimate to her life's story, but some of it just seemed like exactly that: transparent, unabashed, overt name-dropping.

And, finally, there was the issue of her writing style. While her poetic prose was at some points really captivating and powerful, quite often it was just over the top like someone who learns a cool trick and just can't stop repeating it and ends up abuses the crap out of it. It almost seemed too forced, like "look at me, I'm writing a future *classic* because I'm using such heterodox methods and style and such outrageous words and ideas!" Had she toned it all down and made it more subtle, it would have been a lot more meaningful and the emotions a bit more believable to me.

Yes, there are those who would call me "callous" for this review, given the troubles she might have faced, whether physically or psychologically, but, again, I'd have a much easier time accepting this had there been even a small sense of remorse or regret for all the opportunities wasted, the lives hurt, and the damage done to others. But, no; it was all about "me me me". Quite contemporary in that sense.
Profile Image for Hannah.
592 reviews1,052 followers
April 15, 2019
I am in awe with this work of art; I do not know how to find the words to adequately explain why I loved this so much. How about this:

- Lidia Yuknavitch is unflinchingly honest: her destructive tendencies, her flaws, mistakes, triumphs, loves are laid bare for the world to see.
- Her command of language is mesmerizing.
- I could feel every emotion possible while reading
- She is a hero. But also highly unpleasant.

Earlier this year I reviewed Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by the amazing Roxane Gay; that book set the bar high for what a memoir could do – this book is similar in a way. It reads like a novel but has the emotional impact of raw, undiluted, real pain. Both women use art as a channel to deal with their deep and debilitating pain, both create works of absolute stunning beauty.

Lidia Yuknavitch tells of her life, of growing up in a household with an abusive father and a mother who slowly succumbed to alcoholism, of finding solace in competetive swimming, of failing university twice, of drug addiction, of the death of her child, of her two spectacularly failed marriages. She fucks up, a lot. She is undeniably awful, mostly to herself, often to others. She claws her way out of darkness so deep it seems to swallow her whole again, and again, and again. Her self-destructive tendencies are mesmerizing in their scope and her honesty is unflinching.

She tells this in short, fragmented chapters, with poem-like language that cuts deep and had me reeling. Always circling back to water and art, the two things that saved her. Her inventive way of using language and creating imagery alone would be enough to make this a near perfect book, her ability to channel her trauma into something this beautiful and stunning makes it my favourite of the year.

First sentence (of the acknowledgements): “If you have ever fucked up in your life, or if the great river of sadness that runs through all of us has touched you, then this book is for you.”
Profile Image for Alan Scott.
33 reviews15 followers
June 11, 2013
Have you ever met a drunk before? What about someone who likes drugs? What about someone who screws anything on two legs? What about someone who is all three of these things and thinks this makes them REMARKABLY fascinating, edgy, and exotic? Now add a heaping helping of unhappy childhood, a sprinkling of ex-husbands, some chlorinated pool water, some celebrity name dropping, the most uninspired introduction imaginable, and regurgitate it all back up in a writing style which is wannabe Burroughs and Acker, and you've got an idea of what you're in for here, which is boring, boring, boring, as boring as a depressed/narcissistic 17 year old's diary, as boring as one of those drunk prattlers [you know the type] who insist on yammering incessantly about that time when oh man I was sooo wasted..., as boring and as self important as any English lit grad student who ever squinted down at a page of Roland Barthes, as boring as a big, steaming pile of EGO floating on a urine-warm pool of stale beer and pubic hair, and as boring as the tired belief that it is somehow revolutionary to try to shock the bourgeoisie by waving a dead fetus at them.
Profile Image for Lucie.
100 reviews28 followers
January 24, 2020
Bold and brave,
Raw and naked.... literally.

Talk about letting it all hang out there.
This woman is definitely not afraid of oversharing. 😄

In this shockingly honest, unfiltered memoir, Lidia Yuknavitch says: Hey, this is me. This was my journey. The good. The bad. Like it. Don't like it. Take it. Leave it. I spoke my truth. If you get something helpful out of it, awesome.
If it bothers you, it wasn't for you.
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
352 reviews398 followers
September 25, 2014
Incredible read! I have never read writing that is more beautiful, poetic, and profound. It is so rich, with words used in ways I have never seen or felt as deeply. This is a memoir that deals a lot with grief and sexual abuse. Sexual abuse that leads to severe overemphasis of the body. Lidia Yuknavitch's abuse at the hand of her father leads her down a path of extreme sexualization of her body. At times I did not know if I could read any further as the sex was so descriptive, so evocative, and massively out of control. Yet, I hung in there because this book simply would not let me go.

At an early age Lidia's father throws her into an icy lake to teach her to swim. This begins her life as a swimmer and her deep connection to water. It is her early escape and influences her life forever. Her writing is steeped in connections to it. It is through water that she loses herself and later finds herself. It showed me how sexual abuse leaves one with no self, and the journey to find that self is treacherous. I simply cannot due this book justice with my review other than to say it affected me deeply, and the author has laid herself bare, a truly heroic act.
Profile Image for Debbie.
441 reviews2,788 followers
May 19, 2015
Sometimes when something is so great, you don’t dare try to touch it. You don’t want to leave the clouds and come back down to reality, chop it up into little word pieces and throw them together to make a confined review. It just doesn’t feel right. It threatens to take the magic away.

But I must come back to earth and try to describe what I felt about this book, just so I can spread the word. Many parts of her story read like a long prose poem, with amazing cadence and an ability to suck you in. It’s not just poetry. Her stream-of-consciousness stanzas are secret pathways to her underbelly, which she exposes to the world fearlessly.

Yuknavitch reached into my psyche and turned something on. I don’t know what that even means, but she pulled a switch. She made me see that without a doubt, art is the answer. Pain, suffering, confusion, fear, grief, and love are translated into astounding art, which just makes me shake my head in wonder. I need help describing how I feel, so I’m going to steal something from the intro (from a fan of the author):

“They say that alcoholics remember their first drink, that lightening feeling in your body that says yes-yes-let’s feel-this-way-all-the-time. Well, I will always remember the first time I heard Lidia Yuknavitch read. I thought, this is how writing is supposed to be.”

Amen. This is how I felt, in spades.

A water theme prevails and she is so creative in weaving it through her story, it makes you shiver. Yuknavitch is a swimmer girl who is sexually abused as a child and who repeatedly tries to swim to safety. There is drug addiction, sex addiction, death, birth, rebirth. (Be warned, though, there is a lot of graphic sex.) But making a list of her experiences is ludicrous because it’s the WAY she tells her story that makes the book so incredible. You hear her wail, you hear her scream, you hear her laugh, and you wince as you see her go giddily and carelessly down the path of self-destruction, trying to mask her pain and rid herself of it. Her story is raw, honest, edgy, and scary. And let’s not forget bleak, though she does eventually find some peace and joy.

The few times she pauses her gorgeous stream-of-consciousness and comes up for air, she says something so wise it knocks your socks off, like this:

“The more a person recalls a memory, the more they change it. Each time they put it into language, it shifts. The more you describe a memory, the more likely it is that you are making a story that fits your life, resolves the past, creates a fiction you can live with.”

This book had a profound effect on me. It stirred up something good in my soul. Yuknavitch pulled me into sentences and her feelings that created them. Her sentences hum—vibrant and loud. It’s sort of a raunchy, beatnik version of Virginia Woolf, but way more accessible. I can’t believe I said that because honestly I can’t even remember anything about Woolf. But in some weird and wonderful way, I have the same feeling of being wrapped up in her sentences and her art.

This book was so good, I don’t want to pick up another one. I don’t want to erase this feeling. And nothing else will be worthy.
Profile Image for Meg .
102 reviews27 followers
July 31, 2013
“Excess Ain’t Rebellion, You’re Drinking What They’re Selling”

This book has an exceptional amount of hype surrounding it. Having supposedly created a new category labeled “Anti-Memoir,” I had some reasonably high expectations for this work.

If you take any kind of creative writing classes, or study literature at the college level you will already be familiar with the push toward legitimizing creative non-fiction memoirs. On a fundamental level I’m not really interested in that debate. If someone’s writing can hold my attention, entertain, and get me to engage with their text, I’m on board. Fiction, poetry, non-fiction, or mix genre. Good writing stands on its own and transcends any genre. However, the prose in “The Chronology of Water” is premeditated and forced. It reads like any other self-obsessed MFA non-fiction essay awaiting rejection in a lit mag slush pile. It’s another example of how this genre is failing to launch.

On a line level the prose is highly pretentious and indulges in narcissistic self-aware faux avant-garde technique applied ad naseum. I’m all for a poignant fragment, but technique applied without reason or restraint renders the attempts into literary gimmicks (e.g. artsy-fartsy nonsense). At the line-level the book will drive an attentive reader bonkers. Anyone foreign to the MFA artsy-fartsy culture will just think there are a lot of typos and bad editing.

Which perhaps could be forgiven if the substance were weighty enough. Frankly, I feel that Yuknavitch is an unreliable narrator of her own life. I certainly don’t believe in the truth of this memoir part and parcel. I believe only in Yuknavitch’s desire to shock and awe the reader at any cost. All the up-close and personal details feel pimped and slimy. The events are not so much exposed and explored as they are posed and marketed. In the age of internet porn, no one has the luxury of being a prude anymore. Yuknavitch’s silly sex details read like teen swaggering, which would be condemned as excessive if this were written by a male, but Yunavitch insists it is all sexy and empowering because she’s a woman. The former bad-girl turned house kitten Ph.D. recounts what a naughty slut she once was. Sexual? Yes. Sexy? Not even close.

Read any of the prurient passages and transpose the gender and then ask yourself if you’d read the same thing from a male. I’d then invite you to ask yourself if parroting a braggart legacy of misogyny is really empowering to anyone, male or female. And you can offer the rebuttal “Oh but it’s a memoir, she’s just recounting her life.” But I don’t buy it, and that comes down to a question of credibility. Yuknavitch guts her own credibility at every turn. Non-fiction requires a fundamental devotion to the truth and Yuknavitch’s tendency toward self-aggrandizing hyperbole left me in disbelief.

It’s hard to not judge when reading a memoir, especially one that is so intent on not asking for your permission or forgiveness. I’m not really interested in condemning Yuknavitch. I don’t want to be anyone’s moral nanny. I believe women can be just as narcissistically self-destructive as any man. What I condemn is the boredom of it all. How does Yuknavitch afford her Rock ‘n Roll lifestyle? At the expense of the safety, sobriety, and sanity of everyone around her and after ruining other people’s lives, she publishes an unabashed memoir of her exploits. Alcoholism, narcissism, and sex-addiction served straight with no chaser of complexity quickly becomes an easily dismissed, salaciously boring read.

In the last few essays Yuknavitch seems to sense this and goes all mushy, which I didn’t find redemptive, believable, or satisfying either. It reads more like selling out. The transformation from hard-edged selfish addict to deep-thinking literary snob is not shown, it’s told - and again, I just don’t believe it. Yuknavitch doesn’t pick herself up off the floor and straighten out her own life. No, she looks into the eyes of her married lover and when he tells her he wants her to have his baby - Whoomp There It Is! - She’s done been saved by a man’s redemptive love (insert Disney desperate lack-of-agency female chorus here). At every turn I feel the authenticity of experience is withheld, my trust as a reader trampled, and my time wasted.

I once heard a tragedy defined as a story where characters come close to transcending circumstances but fail to grow and live up to their potential. In that sense, this memoir, its prose and its “protagonist” are a real tragedy. This has that current buzz on it, where a lot of people are discussing the book - so by all means read it if you want to participate in that dialog, but don’t believe the hype.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,767 followers
May 12, 2014
It is so fitting that the original cover of this book, which you see depicted here, arrives from the library marred by a plain, gray wrapper around the offensive bit—you know, a woman's bare breast. It is metaphor come to life for Lidia Yuknavitch's searing memoir, The Chronology of Water: hide and deny what is most natural, until it becomes a thing of shame.

Yet it would seem that Lidia Yuknavitch hides nothing. The Chronology of Water is ripe with shock-jock language and imagery. It is angry and lurid and reeks of booze and sex and blood. It's one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. The day I finished the book, I went and bought a copy of my own--no wrapper around the front cover, just a woman's beautiful body disappearing in a shimmer of torso, cut in half by the air above and the water below.

Water is the thematic structure around which this narrative is built—fluid from the body that spills in birth, in sex, in menstruation, in vomit and bile; water that offers healing and and generates power as a strong body sluices through waves to win swim meets or meets an object of one's desire in a hotel swimming pool; water that can take life in a vulnerable moment as one's father collapses in the ocean.

But it's her body that Yuknavitch offers up for examination: a body that in the opening chapter is ruptured by birth. That experience is bookended by years of incest on one side and self-flagellation on the other, until the author meets herself full circle as a wife, a mother, a writer, a woman.

She conceals much in her narrative of abuse, but we are allowed a glimpse behind the wrapper of her shame and sorrow and witness a woman's soul torn in two by violence and fear.

“In my house the sound of leather on the skin of my sister’s bare bottom stole my very voice out of my throat for years. The great thwack of the sister who goes before you. Taking everything before you are born. The sound of the belt on the skin of her made me bite my own lip. I’d close my eyes and grip my knees and rock in the corner of my room. Sometimes I’d bang my head rhythmically against the wall.

I still cannot bear her silence while being whipped. She must have been eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Before it stopped.”

Her father physically and sexually abused Yuknavitch and her sister; their alcoholic mother existed in a fog of denial. Yuknavitch became a woman full of rage. She turned on herself, turned against her body, which had been made beautiful and powerful by water. She squandered a college swimming scholarship through drugs, alcohol, and sex with anything that moved. She punished herself over and over, for years, trying to root out the evil that abuse had buried in her.

Writing became her salvation. Time and again, as she lurches from mistake to affair, from addiction and obsession, it is writing that buoys her above the waves of her own destructive seas.

Caution must be taken not to romanticize Yuknavitch's scary history. The author as addict, the notion that one must suffer to create great art, is a cliché that works because it is true time and again. But if you can separate yourself from the literal and sink into the sheer beauty of her language, the way she wraps her arms around you and won't let you go, you will be rewarded with tears and laughter, with frustration and rage. You will feel. And isn't that why we read? To feel, deeply, achingly, painfully, blissfully.

The nature of memoir, as distinct from autobiography, is like looking down at your body in a pool of water: shapes are distorted, disjointed, appearing larger or smaller or not at all. Memoir is not a chronological connection of facts. Memoir is a work of prose, it is an interpretation of one's life just as a painting is an interpretation of a scene or a theme. Whether or not every event described by Yuknavitch, or any other memoirist, really happened is not the point of memoir; the point is to offer the reader a powerful piece of writing with experiences that elevate the personal to the universal. Yuknavitch says it best:

All the events in my life swim in and out between each other. Without chronology. Like in dreams. So if I am thinking of a memory...there is no linear sense. 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.

This isn't for everyone. Some will read and be exasperated or disgusted or disbelieving. I get that. I get that chaos and promiscuity and addiction are ugly, messy, and life is too short to waste reading about someone else's tragedy and self-destructive behavior. That's pretty much me, really. But something about this story--the goddamn gorgeous language, the raw power of its brutality--gave me so much comfort and solace. In Yuknavitch's word embrace, I felt the magic of self-acceptance and self-love, and the crazy-wonderful beauty of life.

“Listen, I can see you. If you are like me. You do not deserve most of what has happened or will. But there is something I can offer you. Whoever you are. Out there. As lonely as it gets, you are not alone. There is another kind of love.

It’s the love of art. Because I believe in art the way other people believe in god.

In art I’ve met an army of people – a tribe that gives good company and courage and hope. In books and painting and music and film. This book? It’s for you. It’s water I made a path through…Come in. The water will hold you.”
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews966 followers
May 30, 2019
Urgent and raw, Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water explores the many ways in which deep connection and art can heal past wounds and childhood trauma. In sharp prose Yuknavitch hops around in time, recording her memories and artfully sequencing them. A would-be professional swimmer who grew up in an abusive household and struggled with addiction early in life, only to have found redemption through writing as an adult, the author has no shortage of subjects to consider. Besides her extraordinary life story, Yuknavitch’s emphasis on bodily experience, as well as her semi-experimental approach to narrative, differentiates her work from other addiction memoirs. Well worth checking out.
Profile Image for jo.
613 reviews489 followers
March 15, 2012
this memoir is larger than life. lidia yuknavitch is larger than life. she is smart, funny, talented in about a thousand ways (she thinks the only thing she does well is swim but of course that's ridiculous), and a barrelfull of life. she's got so much life in her, she had to use gargantuan amounts of booze, drugs, and sex to put it all to sleep. and still, she didn't manage.

as a writer, she might annoy you. some of the things she says here annoyed me. i got annoyed when she wholesale-dissed 'n ditched academia. i got annoyed when she told me how to heal. i got annoyed when she celebrated the written word, especially her relationship to the written word. she knows she knows how to write, if you see what i mean. and, in fact, she does know how to write. but it's annoying that she tells you, more than once.

but here's something else, something that's so important, it may be the most important thing about this book. people with deep trauma don't have anything. most of all, they don't have a self. they don't have a walking self, a biking self, a reading self, a writing self, a swimming self. for the longest time, all lidia yuknavitch had were 1. a swimming self and 2. a fucking-up self. the swimming may have saved her life. i mean, she puts it right in the title of her book, right? in fact, she puts it all over her book!

so take someone like this woman, so brutalized in infancy and childhood and adolescence that she was left only with these two barely serviceable selves. one of them built -- self-confidence, strength, life -- the other killed. you know which one won. yet, this woman managed at some point, in some way, miraculously, to pull herself out of the dark and the must and the not-life. if you think about that, if you spend even a minute thinking about that, you stop being annoyed at her book, because you know that this book is literally her life. it's like you hold this book, you hold her. this bragging woman, this larger-than-life woman, is also a very fragile woman.

i got my book through interlibrary loan. my university didn't have a copy and my public library didn't have a copy. WHAT! i'll return the book to the library and, on the same day, order it from my local bookstore. then, next semester or the one after that, i'll assign it to my class. i teach two kind of classes: classes about trauma and the construction of mental pain (aka "mental illness"), and queer studies class. this book works in both. if you are reading this, lidia yuknavitch (i hope you are not), 35 people will buy your book. 36 with me. some will buy it used from the big amazonian beast, so count on 20-25. not bad, huh?

but i'm sure i'm not the only one assigning this book in class. here are a few reasons:

* it's beautiful
* it's as powerful as anything you've read
* it doesn't pigeonhole/define/categorize anything: not sexuality, not child abuse, not incest, not addiction, not redemption, not marriage, not writing, not new lives (this is a major selling point for me, this freedom from pre-established narratives)
* it's a fantastic read
* it's beautifully, gorgeously queer
* it's beautifully, gorgeously vulnerable and hurt and broken
* it's beautifully, painfully honest
* it's beautifully, achingly real (i wish i hadn't written achingly; so cliché)

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,461 reviews8,566 followers
April 30, 2018
I consider Lidia Yuknavitch a hero for writing about her experiences of child abuse with such candor and rawness. The first half of The Chronology of Water stunned me: her vivid descriptions of growing up with an abusive father and a passive mother felt both gripping and heartbreaking. Yuknavitch penned such great scenes about her childhood, using powerful verbs that rocketed me into her past as if I witnessed it with her. The way she writes about her emotions as a child, too - the terror, the helplessness, the rage - all resonated with my own experiences of child abuse and captured her younger self so well. For the rest of the memoir, with great honesty, she writes about how she coped with her trauma: with lots of alcohol, lots of sex with women and men, a few marriages, and her more healthful vices, swimming and writing. Throughout the book, she positions her physical body as a source of suffering, pleasure, and joy, describing her sexuality as well as the death of her first child with great sorrow, passion, and nuance.

I so wanted to give this book five stars from the first 50% but the latter half of the novel lost some of the narrative tightness I so loved from the beginning. It felt more like a description of events that just so happened rather than the tight, careful construction of the first part of the book, or of a couple of my favorite memoirs about childhood abuse and recovery, such as An Abbreviated Life by Ariel Leve or Hunger by Roxane Gay. I also groaned at the whole plot about a man's love and marriage saving her. While I respect her path to healing and feel happy about her growth, I just find the trope of romance as redemption overplayed.

Still, an important memoir I would recommend to anyone interested in trauma, queerness, and writing about the importance of writing. Again, I applaud Yuknavitch for her courage in sharing her story, especially with such a distinct and unapologetic voice. The parts about art as a source of healing really resonated with me as well.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,607 reviews2,578 followers
May 18, 2019
This really blew me away. “Out of the sad sack of sad shit that was my life, I made a wordhouse,” Yuknavitch writes. Her nonlinear memoir ranges from her upbringing with an alcoholic, manic-depressive mother and an abusive father via the stillbirth of her daughter and her years of alcohol and drug use through to the third marriage where she finally got things right and allowed herself to feel love again after so much numbness. Reading this, you’re amazed that the author is still alive, let alone thriving as a writer.

Ken Kesey, who led a collaborative novel-writing workshop in which she participated in the late 1980s, once asked her what the best thing was that ever happened to her. Swimming, she answered, because it felt like the only thing she was good at. In the water she was at home and empowered. Kesey reassured her that swimming wasn’t her only talent: there is some truly dazzling writing here, veering between lyrical stream-of-consciousness and in-your-face informality.

There are so many vivid sequences, but two that stood out for me were cutting down a tree the Christmas she was four and the way her mother turned her teeth-chattering crisis into a survival game, and the drunken collision she had after her second ex-husband told her he was seeing a 23-year-old. With the caveat that this is extremely explicit stuff (the author is bisexual; there’s an all-female threesome and S&M parties), I would still highly recommend it to readers of Joan Didion, Anne Lamott and Maggie Nelson.

The watery metaphor flowing through, as one woman learns to float free of what once threatened to drown her, is only part of what makes this book unforgettable. You’ll marvel at what a memoir can do. My life couldn’t be more different than Yuknavitch’s full-pelt, high-octane, sex-drenched one, but I admired her for her clear-eyed sense of who she’s been and what she’s done.

A couple of favorite passages:

“It is possible to carry life and death in the same sentence. In the same body. It is possible to carry love and pain. In the water, this body I have come to slides through the wet with a history. What if there is hope in that?”

“Make up stories until you find one you can live with. Make up stories as if life depended on it.”
Profile Image for Brittany.
358 reviews17 followers
March 26, 2013
This book is much too pretentious for its own good. I mean, if you like reading bullshit like 'I may have been crap at making a home and family, but I succeeded at building a wordhouse' or countless references to how we're all water and how often the author wet her pants as a child and how everything smells like urine oh my god my dead baby my dead baby return to the water what is punctuation maybe if I wasn't so obsessed with piss I would learn more about periods and how they are supposed to occur at least once a month

Then this book might be for you.
She name-drops fairly often, priding herself on being a young protege of Ken Kesey (supposedly because he thought she was hot at first, but then really really realized that she's a writer) and the lover of a feminist writer in Eugene, Oregon...

She spends so much time talking about what this book supposedly isn't that she really doesn't get to what it's supposed to be. Clearly a 'memoir' for people just like her, who want something profound to rise out of the ashes of words sloppily put on a page, often over and over.

Simply put, this was one of those books that I nearly did not finish, but soldiered through--looking down at the progress bar on my Kindle the whole time, and thanking all the powers that be that I didn't pay cover price for it.
Profile Image for Brittany.
110 reviews13 followers
January 6, 2012
My friend Heather mailed me this book. She said she didn't particularly like it, but she also couldn't get it out of her head, so she wanted me to read it so we could talk about it. As with every other memoir of substance abuse/mental illness/familial abuse I've read, this one left me feeling conflicted. What does it mean to despise a memoirist? Am I erasing their story because it doesn't conform to my expectations? By looking down on their stories, am I reinforcing the idea that there's only one true, "correct" way to narratize a downward spiral? What does it mean when you dislike an author for doing some of the same things that you've done? Is it fair for me to be upset that so many of these memoirs end in the author's absolution through marriage and motherhood, even if the author, like Yuknavitch, had experimented plenty with folks of other genders? Maybe the "experimentation" is what bothers me. Do I dislike her memoir because I feel threatened by a powerful woman who actively claims the identity of a "broken" woman as well as its inverse? What is my own identity in relationship to my past and/or ongoing struggles with substance abuse/mental illness/familial abuse? Do I need to read more Kathy Acker? (Yuknavitch pursued and was "pussy whipped" by Acker; she also said that anyone who can't get down with Acker's work is weak. I read and did not particularly like Blood and Guts in High School, but I also like to push myself to read things that I don't "like".)

Beyond my moral quandaries, I just didn't enjoy Yuknavitch's writing style. I know that she writes like she does because she wants to mime immediacy, wants the reader to be there with her "in the moment", but there's only so many times I can read her meant-to-be-charming/powerful compounding of words ("boyfish" "motherhouse" "bonesong") without rolling my eyes. Maybe I'll check out her short stories, though? I don't know, this book gave me a lot to think about and I can't even really formulate my thought process here. Though I didn't quite enjoy it, I'm still glad I read it--even if it did set me off balance.
Profile Image for Tia.
260 reviews39 followers
July 2, 2016
It's very hard for me to review this book without being mean and hateful. I don't like the emotions I felt reading this, and I'm trying to be fair. I will say that people will either love or hate this author's "voice." Personally, I hated it. It made me nauseous.

I guess it's supposed to be "experimental." To have "on purpose" typos, misspelled words, made up words, no punctuation, run-on sentences, repetition of trite phrases like "nothing nothing nothing" and "straight no chaser." There is also the pretentious "prose" and tireless water metaphors. She reminds us on every other page that she's blonde, and her tits are big, and her eyes are blue, in case we forgot. She constantly uses the word "corpus" in place of human body, too.

She has an obsession with piss. She's always pissing her pants or her bed, or about to, or having a piss tingle because she remembered something. She's also always creaming her pants, or so wet she's about to slide off her chair into a puddle, because of how someone peeled an orange or recited a poem. She tries way too hard to be shocking and gross. The overuse of profanity, the description of shit stains from her ass-play during a lesbian orgy.

Also, she thinks she's the first person to ever be attracted to other women. The first to be aroused watching someone shave their vulva in a locker room shower when she was an adolescent. She tells us that she didn't have innocent crushes—no! Not her! She really liked girls for real. She experimented with them, between marrying three men. She's so cool, you guys. So deviant.

She's also very unique in that she was *supposedly* sexually abused as a child. Never mind that one in three girls are sexually abused before the age of eighteen. No, she's special. She tells a story about how she "weeds out" women by reading them brutal rape/incest scenes from Kathy Acker books, and if they smile and get wet and touch themselves, she keeps them around. If they are upset by it, "they're idiots." She also reads these in the classes she teaches. When one girl cried and vomited (probably because it happened to her, and she was triggered by it) the author said she was "a pussy."

Yet, the author never goes into any detail at all about her sexual abuse, she just keeps alluding to it supposedly happening. And tells a story about how when she was little and too sick to move, her father bathed her. So either she's too much of "a pussy" to share her story, or it never happened. It's just a fantasy of hers. Personally, I think it's a fantasy. She sounded like she wanted to fuck her dad and her sister. If it actually happened, she still has no right to be such an asshole towards people who aren't as accepting of what happened to them.

She also has this tendency to constantly start out a story, and then say "No, I'm lying, that never happened, haha." And to laugh at her own jokes within the narrative. I lost count of how many times she said "I just cracked myself up writing that sentence." I can tell you I never laughed once reading this book.

And really, not only did I dislike the writing, I disliked the author. I thought she was a sociopath who destroyed everyone's lives and had no remorse for it whatsoever. I don't think she has a conscience. She had three abortions before she was 21. With her first husband, she would scream at him until he was emotionally exhausted and passed out. She punched him in the face. She broke into people's houses and slept with him there, and stole from them. She was such a drug addict that she lost her swimming scholarship.

Then she got pregnant by this first husband, and the baby was stillborn. A lot of people found this heartbreaking. I did not. Sorry, but I think that baby was lucky. They dodged a bullet. I can only imagine what kind of hell she'd put that child through if they lived. If she physically and emotionally abused her husband, I'm sure she would her child. I'm sure she'd neglect it too, since she was too fucked up to even take care of herself, and spent time waking up in her own vomit under bridges. I do not feel sorry for her losing that baby. I feel happy for the baby not being born into that life.

Then she has an affair with a married student she is teaching, and he loans her his car after she is drunk driving and hits a pregnant woman. In the chapter about the pregnant woman she hit, who maybe lost the baby (who knows, since she never cares to find out), she makes it all about HER. Her mother, her childhood, her stillborn daughter.

Well, this married student knows all the sick shit she did and decides to have a baby with her, so he's obviously trash too. What's to stop her from drunk driving with the kid in the car? She never says she goes to rehab or therapy or takes any steps to get her life together. We're just led to believe that this man magically saved her. She's all of a sudden fit to be a parent. Sorry, I don't buy that. I'm actually uncomfortable thinking about this whack job being someone's mother.

The whole book just made my skin crawl. I'm not sure why I finished it. I would never recommend it to anyone, for any reason.

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews14 followers
October 8, 2014
My reason I'm rating this memoir 3.5 stars is because:

#1) The title of this book fits the writing style. ('Parts' powerful and beautiful). Lovely water-human-connection-symbolism

#2) I especially resonated with metaphors associate with WATER.
"There are many ways to drown"
"Knee deep in the water of our lives"
"In water, like in books, you can leave your life"

As for the 'entire' of this memoir --I might have enjoyed it more if I was 19 or 20 years old. Lidia claims to be a 'weird', an edgy, writer. I agree!

I admire fearless souls & full self-expression, yet there is a theme throughout this book which points toward lacking respect.

At the beginning of this story Lidia shares a tragic heartfelt story about the loss of her child. (her stillborn child)....
Yet, she is later almost analytical in reporting about having had *3* Abortions under the age of 21. A very nonchalant attitude.

Clearly Dysfunctional is the song of this novel....
...Lidia was kicked out of college
...She was an athletic swimmer -who became an alcoholic, gained weight, took drugs, and becomes a sex addict.
...As a grad student, Lidia sleeps with 3 Professors
...Later as a Professor herself ...Lidia sleeps with a grad student (marries him)
...When Lidia is fired from a teaching job for having an affair with a grad student --(she shows not an ounce of remorse), rather, self-righteous indignation.
...Lidia indulges in narcissistic self-awareness -- often using artsy-gimmick-shock-UP-IN-YOUR-FACE-'forced' excessive noncomformity-sexual descriptions....(almost to the point of 'fear' to follow-the-rule conform to any mainstream dignity).
...This author also does a lot of NAME DROPPING: Ken Kesey, Kathy Acker, James Taylor, Burroughs, the book "Tweak"....etc. The name dropping -with (I'M DIFFERENT, UNIQUE, *MOST* weird), comes off as a writer who is a little pretentious.

Weather Lidia is pretentious or not, (she seems almost allergic to accordance and conformity. Nothing in this book was 'shocking' --or 'new'. (I had higher hopes for NEW & SHOCKING)... 'oh well'.

I can't say I fully trust this is a truthful memoir either, yet I happen to be passionate about WATER --- I enjoyed the tide & current, Lidia created.

It was hard NOT to have negative judgments for the choices Lidia made in her life. 3 Abortions is NOT a mistake ....

This is a fast read --short chapters --less a 'book' --more a long blog!

Do I recommend this book? Not Particularly.

Two other books I recommend more are:
1)"Dry" by Augusten Burroughs and

2)"This Is How"...Help for the Self ...Proven Aid in Overcoming: (shyness,molestation, fatness,spinsterhood, grief, disease, lushery, decrepitude)...and More for Young and Old Alike.

The above two books are VERY INSPIRING!!!

My final words about "The Chronology of Water" (a tip of advice)
Don't rock the boat and don't make waves,
Do rock the boat and do make waves

Profile Image for Janet.
Author 22 books87.7k followers
April 27, 2016
This memoir sat on my shelf for at least year, a gift I somehow thought was about competitive swimming—sports being my least favorite subject. But when I heard Yuknavitch read in Los Angeles, I realized that hers was one of the strongest literary voices I have ever heard, anywhere, at any time. I came right home and plunged in. I can’t believe I let this mind-blowing book sit when I could have been having my life changed. Not in the self-helpy way, but in the way that great writing, ferocious writing, changes you. Hangs you out a window by your ankles and shakes you.

Yuknavitch relates the story of her troubled, high-energy life in short chapters, building around incidents in her development, associatively structured rather than in the steady flow of conventional narrative. The spine of the book is water—for Yuknavitch did spend her childhood and adolescence as a competitive swimmer—but there are also other waters, like the water of the womb, and booze, and tears, stillbirth and death by drowning. There are pools and rivers and oceans, and the underwater quality of drugs and distance from self.

The daughter of a narcissistic architect--a rageaholic and self-justifying abuser--and a crippled, alcoholic housewife whose depression weighs down the household,( but who also is capable at crucial moments of rising up to inspire and protect the young Lidia), Yuknavitch finds her identity in competitive swimming. She has a natural affinity for the element, but more than that, it gives her an outlet for her strength, an escape from her family, a chance to excel, and a link to concerned people in outside world. It creates in her a girl ready to push back at life, and push back hard.

The physicality of the book is incredible-- swimming and abuse and addiction, pregnancy and stillbirth, and a blistering erotic life. The strength of that body, the unquenchable self. The chapter she chose to read that first night, about an erotic encounter, peeled the paint off the walls.

Yuknavitch doesn’t pull punches nor does she shrink from describing the terrible harm she has inflicted on others—inevitable, given the rage and pain created in those early years.. I found it fascinating that she didn’t spend the rest of her life strangled by the guilt and regret—her toughness comes through as strongly as her fierce clarity.

It’s a book I know I will give to others—not for everybody, but for people who will love the strength and sex and beauty and howling grief of it.
Profile Image for sarah gilbert.
62 reviews66 followers
April 21, 2013
I do not know what to say about the category of memoirs in which the writing resume is included as story. I do not know what to say about memoirs which treat the relationships of their lives so coldly, throwing up the one-side-of-the-story like angry paint on a wall. Lidia graffitis her life story all over the lives of those she's known, and I am not sure whether I want never to have known her or to wish that I had. Edited: I know her, now, and I feel differently.

Lidia, indeed, can write, and some of these chapters come out so much like prose poems that I would love to collect them and re-read just the parts that are beautiful and painful and honest. But she is also gripped with a need to be edgy, personal, raw, colloquial, experimental, profane. Many times I cringe at the depiction of sex between the man or woman with whom she is engaging, or at the destruction done to her body by alcohol and drugs, or at her quick switches in voice and style that interrupt, for me, the dream-story. I know now i am meant to cringe. The dipping into and out of fiction -- always done quickly, at least -- is sometimes imaginative and brilliant and sometimes jarring. The gripping, holding tight to the symbolism is sometimes gorgeous and sometimes painful.

When there is a journal or magazine that calls a theme, I blanch at the inevitable piece that defines the word and uses it again and again too much. In a book, I prefer symbolic themes should number several, so that one is not left with the feeling, at the end of reading, that one has overeaten. Edited: now I know this was not done without intention, without obsession, and I admire it as such.

So many people have picked this book as one of their top five or 10 of the year; I worry that I am missing something. Or perhaps seeing too much. I am picky about the part of a memoir in which the author makes insights about themselves; I fear that this memoir is one of those that stubbornly refuses to be insightful. I do not get my moment of realization that drinking so much vodka and Scotch is bad for one's art. (Indeed, it's defended in the Q&A section at the back; I part-admire and part-horrify at her perversion of the rehab story.) I do not get my acknowledgement that her selfishness has harmed others (in fact, the professors and ex-wives and old lovers are treated with derision).

Some books are perfectly suited to me and I fall in love with all my heart. Others are such that I can only admire querulously and from a distance. At first I thought this was the latter. I see something in this, so much in this, and it's grown on me like the skin of a fish.
Profile Image for Come Musica.
1,537 reviews377 followers
July 2, 2022
La cronologia dell'acqua è il titolo di uno dei primi racconti di Lidia Yuknavitch ed è anche il titolo che lei decide di dare a questo suo memoir: lei lo definisce un anti-memoir...


La storia inizia da un lutto: la nascita della sua bambina morta prima ancora di aprire gli occhi.
E questa non è solo la storia di un lutto, di come si sopravvive a un lutto, ma è anche la storia di mille violenze subite e a cui l'autrice si ribella, anche attraverso lo stare in acqua.
Non ci si sceglie la famiglia in cui si nasce, ma si può scegliere con chi sostituire dentro di noi le figure che ci hanno fatto soffrire e ci hanno segnato profondamente.

Dico da sempre che l'acqua è il mio elemento e che quando sono in acqua mi riconcilio profondamente con la parte più intima di me stessa. Credo che sia quello che prova la scrittrice, che ha iniziato a gareggiare in acqua sin da quando era piccolissima e che deve a sua madre il dono della passione nello stare in acqua. E se all'inizio della sua vita, la scrittrice nel gareggiare in acqua era come se fuggisse da qualcosa oppure si dirigesse verso qualcosa, man mano che si alleggerisce del fardello con cui deve convivere, impara anche a essere in acqua. Non è più un andare verso o uno scappare da. È semplicemente uno stare e un essere.

L'acqua e la scrittura sono le due chiavi con le quali Lidia apre le porte del suo passato, si racconta la storia del suo passato, senza alcuno sconto, e la riscrive per riconciliarsi con la vita, per curare le sue ferite. Si racconta la propria storia e la racconta e nel raccontarla trova anche chi ha il coraggio di dirle "Vedo la madre in te. Nella tua storia c'è più di quel che pensi."

Lidia ha colto l'essenza dello stare in acqua e ce lo porge in dono: "Ma conosco un segreto che loro ingnorano. Siamo tutti nuotatori prima che la terra e l'ossigeno albeggino. Conserviamo tutti il ricordo di quel passato blu respirabile."

Quante emozioni in questo memoir.
Straziante e terribilmente e rudemente bello!

È pieno di violenza, di sofferenza, di soprusi, di annichilimento della vita, ma è anche pieno di speranza. "La famiglia bisogna inventarsela. Seriamente."

"Non meritate la maggior parte di quello che vi è successo o vi succederà. Ma c'è qualcosa che posso offrirvi. Chiunque voi siate. Là fuori. Per quanto sia la solitudine, non siete soli. C'è un'altra specie di amore.
Entrate. L'acqua vi accoglierà."
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,468 reviews563 followers
April 23, 2019
[4+] Yuknavitch uses language in a raw, poetic way to convey the emotional intensity of her experiences. While reading The Chronology of Water I was pushed and pulled into her life, unable to stop even when the going got rough. This is not a predictable memoir with a linear chronology. There is a lot of pain and chaos here but this book is so alive, it breathes.
Profile Image for Rachel Kelley.
135 reviews16 followers
August 27, 2012
I expected so much from this book despite the mixed reviews I had been hearing from those around me. This is the first time I have had to give a book one star, and I gave it to my own teacher. This is also the first book I have ever really considered not finishing.

It may be this new "edgy is cool" movement that made this book blow up, but I have to tell you...I am not feeling it. And not because I just "can't understand the deeper meaning" or "appreciate the pain and struggle" happening here. My issues have nothing to do with the new hipster desire to drop f-bombs and graphic sex scenes just to shock and awe an audience.

My issues lie in that this book is the most unorganized, repetitive, self-righteous, trite book I think I have ever read. And it pains me to say it, because I know the author and I hoped for much more than this.

The style is juvenile and seemingly unedited. There was no flow (despite the insanely repetitive water motif). Style shift after style shift, none of which fit, none of which had the intended impact. Everything was overdone.

There is a general consensus it seems, that as an audience we should sympathize with memoirists, no matter if the writing is good. Especially if there is pain and struggle involved. Abuse. Addiction. Rape. Drugs. But the author has taken these things and raised herself on a pedestal with them. As if "you cannot possibly experience pain the way I have. You cannot be broken because you can't know what it means to be broken."

It is insulting to have someone belittle other's suffering because they feel entitled, like they have earned the right to do so by experiencing pain as well. There is such a sense that the author's feels she is better than us because she has committed crimes and had insane experiences. Like we should feel honored to read her life, because what do we know. Did we hang out with Ken Kesey or Kathy Acker? Well then we must not be good enough, right?

The writing was abstract (and not in the good way). There was no rhyme or reason to the structure of sentences or paragraphs or anything really. It was a mishmash of "here, let me tell you the next unbelievable thing I did and I will punctuate it with an unnecessary expletive." There is a time and place for these things (and I truly have nothing against them) but they were used improperly in almost every sense.

There is so much in this book that upsets me. As a writer, as a student, as a reader. And as a person. I understand that everyone has their own opinion of this memoir (most of which are positive according to the ratings) but I clearly state that I do not understand the hype. And I wanted to, so badly.
Profile Image for Gabril.
732 reviews162 followers
September 30, 2022
“Non sentivo niente di me.
Riempirmi di quel niente era tutto.”

Lidia racconta la propria storia. Ovvero l’attraversamento dell’inferno per arrivare a incontrare la parte viva di sé.
Lidia racconta, spietata anche verso se stessa, la propria storia: fatta di accanimento autodistruttivo che passa dall’alcol alla droga al sesso estremo. Lo sballo che ottunde il cervello e i sensi. Scrivendolo, spietatamente davvero, rende emblematico il percorso di salvezza che deve compiere chi non è stato amato, e ancora di più chi ha subito violenza, quando all’abuso di un padre è speculare l’indifferenza/assenza di una madre. Mentre lui sprigiona la sua rabbia, lei sprofonda nel venefico oblio dell’alcol. E intanto una bambina affoga nei detriti che intorno e addosso le hanno riversato; quella, invece di una casa.

La bambina trova sfogo e consolazione nel silenzio azzurro dell’acqua. Nuotatrice, atleta, detentrice di record, probabile promessa olimpionica. Probabile ma impossibile. Perché tutto continua a deteriorarsi a contatto con la terra, tutto scompare nelle sabbie mobili del disamore. Quando riemerge dalla liquida quiete azzurra la bambina (la ragazza, la donna) incontra alterni flash di luce/buio. Ma soprattutto violenza e assenza. Connubio mortifero.
Ribellione, urlo soffocato, fuga nelle esperienze estreme. Autosabotaggio sistematico di ogni possibilità di redenzione.

Così Lidia cresce. Da sola, perché la sorella maggiore ben presto si dà alla fuga.
Lidia cresce autoflagellandosi, punendosi d’essere viva e tuttavia cercando il modo di percepire quell’esser viva, annaspando nel mondo, riconciliata col mondo soltanto quando si immerge nel profondo blu dell’acqua. Acqua di piscina, odore amico del cloro. Vasche, vasche, vasche.
Ma quando riemerge una guerra senza fine la aspetta al varco di una terra respingente e incomprensibile, che la lascia senza fiato, incompresa.
Per trovare la sua strada verso la vita Lidia rischierà molte volte la morte. Là dove il suo sé ferito la trascina. Ma per aprirle oscuramente un varco verso la cura, verso l’amore e forse, benedetto dal blu, verso il perdono.
Profile Image for Angel Adeyoha.
Author 2 books3 followers
June 20, 2012
I wanted to like this book, and I tried hard to do so, but I couldn't find anything relatable. I often have that problem with stories about middle/upper class white folks. Her blase attitude about drunkenly hitting a ' 5' tall brown skinned pregnant woman' was one example of the self centeredness that made this story just blur for me. She also seems to be trying so hard to be shocking, but instead of shocked I was un-invested and found her story rather predictable. At one point she goes on about how another writing student called her work trite and I thought, exactly. All the poetic turns of phrase couldn't rescue this one for me.
Profile Image for Alison.
327 reviews57 followers
June 20, 2011
I'm completely torn about this book. In so many ways I loved it: her writing is magnificent--it's that rare prose that completely captivates and makes its own rules. She creates her own language to describe her life and the result is artistic, beautiful, original. Beyond that, while I found her to be one of the strangest people I've ever had the pleasure of reading about, I could really identify with her love of swimming and her passion for the written word. That is to say, despite all the strangeness, I always felt grounded in the story.

But at the same time I found myself wishing she didn't have to be so off the wall all the time. I understood that she was a deeply wounded person, but at times I felt I was reading about someone who went around deeply wounding other people and never felt all that bad about it. Yes, terrible terrible things happened to her, things I can't even begin to truly imagine (though her writing brings you very close), but terrible things happen to nearly everyone.
Profile Image for Peter Derk.
Author 24 books336 followers
February 24, 2014
The biggest change for me in turning 30 is that I've become a huge weeping pussy bitch.

I'm sorry. I don't mean to use those words, and I don't mean to use them like that. It's just that when I think about the way I am, when the talk is all inside, the junior high boy in me tries to take over a little bit. Adult me knows these words aren't really supposed to be used like this. But the best adult me can do when the junior high boy is really raging is to at least pare the word "pusshole" down to "pussy." I'm trying.

I read most of The Chronology of Water in two places.

1) The bathtub in my apartment. Including lavender bubble bath. The store brand that comes in a giant bottle. It's bright purple. Pimp purple. Purple the inside of a porn limo purple. I don't know how much bubble bath to use. The first time I poured it in, the white foam spilled over the edge of the tub before the water got anywhere near the top. I'd never even thought about it, but I don't think I've ever in my life put bubbles into a bath tub before. I've been in bubble baths as a kid, but never concocted one on my own. I still don't have the ratio right. It's guess and check. I could ask my mom, but I don't really want to go pussy bitch in front of her.

The bubble bath is necessary. The bubble part, I mean. It cracked the code on sitting in the bath tub.

Here's the code:
-You have to take your entire naked body out of the equation, just floating there. Bubble screen.
-You have to start feeling the old where your body hurts and you're ready to let the warm water do something. Ready to wait.

Drinking a beer doesn't hurt either.

I sat reading The Chronology of Water in the bath tub more than once after the water went cold.

The other place I read a lot of this book,

2) A diner by my apartment.

This is where the weeping pussy bitch of a man really comes bursting out of the closet or the curtained bath tub or wherever he's been hiding.

Again, I'm so so sorry. For the pussy bitch stuff.

My mom has been making friends lately. We have breakfasts together, but the last couple of weeks she's had other stuff going on. This is good. It just means that The Chronology of Water has been my breakfast buddy the last couple weeks.

Which is how I end up sitting at a booth, old as hell couples at the booths around me, and I'm reading a book with a nude torso on the front, wiping my nose with the napkin, doing everything I can to keep a tear from busting right out of my left eye, the one that always cries first. Always. It's the one that sees better too. My eyes are different in the mirror, and the left is the one that looks smart. The sharp eye. The eye that stays closed in bright light. The crier.

Pick up this book and read the two sections starting on page 263. The ones about Lidia and her son swimming. All you need to know: Lidia is your storyteller, Miles is her son, Andy is Miles' father. If Lidia's words don't convince you to read her book, there's no way I can come up with words that will. Hers are the kind of words most of us spend forever and notebooks and notebooks looking for.

I read those two sections starting on page 263 twice. Two different breakfast trips, two different booths, same "French Combo" in front of me. Both times, same thing. With the crying. Almost crying. Maybe worse the second time.

I don't know what's happening to me. Or what happened to the me who wouldn't ever pick up a book like this, sure as hell wouldn't cry over it. Wouldn't cry over anything if he could help it, which he always could.

That guy, he's rinsed away. At least for now.

I didn't care for the way he talked to other people. Or the way he talked to himself. That was the worst part. Weeping pusshole bitchy bitch.

But fuck, he was reliable. He got me through everything that ever happened. He was the only guy who was there for me.

We'll see what happens without him.

Read this book. I mean it. The rock collecting, the bike riding lesson. It's all here.

I'll do my best to invalidate some of the criticisms I see of this book. Some people will criticize this book because they feel the storyteller's actions weren't always right. And that is true. If you're the kind of person who needs their storyteller to always be right, to always do the right thing, and if she doesn't it's always in service of a larger lesson of redemption, then skip this one. You won't like it.

Others put this into the category of books about abuse and drinking and drugs and sex and out of control college years. Again, that stuff happens. A lot. Before you throw it on that pile, let me say something here. You can categorize anything. I was talking about Cormac McCarthy's The Road the other day, and I said it was post-apocalyptic. Which it is, but I wouldn't put it next to any of the books in that category. It's not a post-apocalyptic book. That describes the setting, not the book. The writing is beautiful, and the emotion of the book has so much more value than the circumstances.

The Chronology of Water is the same way. It deals with all that shit, you know, life shit. The way it reads, that's the real power of it. Sometimes I think people will categorize a book because then they don't have to read it that way. Don't have to pay attention. Once you decide, you can stuff it away. Fight Club is about men punching each other. The Yellow Wallpaper is about a kook. Beloved is about slavery. There, done, easy. This review is about a book that a guy liked. Now we can get away from it. Make the escape.

Don't run away from this one. Don't put it in a snare that keeps it from chasing after you. Read it instead. In the bath, at a diner. If you're okay being a little weepy, that is. If you've accepted your pusshole bitch self.

In case you don't read it, I want to share a passage from the interview in the back. Good for anyone who cares about books.

Everything has been sucked up into marketing and celebrity and the almighty commodity- so if you are a writer, you are meant to sell something. If it sells, it has worth. But in my heart of hearts I just want to sneak individual books into the pockets of sad people. Or stuff pews with them! Because writing gave me a place to go and be and grow when I wanted to give up. And I'd like to jam my foot in the doorway so that others might find this place too.

Profile Image for Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk).
1,412 reviews2,302 followers
April 25, 2022
Bardzo intymna, pełna wściekłości, przepełniona kobiecością opowieść, która kontynuuje myśli rozpoczęte przez „Lata” Annie Ernaux i „Trylogię kopenhaską” Tove Ditlevsen.

„Chcę należeć do czegoś oprócz rodziny.” – pisze Lidia i z każdą kolejną stroną coraz intensywniej odbieramy jej ból, jej cierpienie, jej uzależniającą autodestrukcję. Nienawidzi wszelkich instytucji, przede wszystkim instytucji rodziny – czy można się temu dziwić? Rodzina z jej doświadczenia to dysfunkcja, to brak miłości, to przemoc i molestowanie przez ojca, to alkohol i próby samobójcze matki. To strach przed wrzaskiem, wygrażaniem pięścią, to zasikane majtki. Wściekłość i gniew. Niepokorna natura rodzi się w dziewczynce powoli, kiełkuje, by wybuchnąć z czasem z intensywnością komety – uzależnienia, odwyki, taniec między jednym a drugim. I niekończące się powroty, aż do chwili przełomu. Klisze? Nie u Yuknavitch, która roznosi nas językowo, mistrzowsko obraca słowa, frazą wprowadza w drżenie…

W „Chronologii wody” Lidia szuka miłości, pragnie jej i od niej ucieka. Kocha mężczyzn i kocha kobiety. Chłopców i dziewczęta. Szuka zrozumienia, jakiegokolwiek pocieszenia, ale gdy tylko je napotka na drodze – robi wszystko, by je zniszczyć. Uważa, ��e na nie nie zasługuje… Obnaża w końcu jej rany, rozciąga blizny, dotyka tych miękkich części pod pancerzem pozornej siły. Jej opowieść prowadzi rozpacz utraty. Potwornej i niezrozumiałej. Słowa jednak mają oczyszczającą moc – dla Lidii mają siłę ognia, moc wody, niosą tak potrzebne katharsis.

Lidia Yuknavitch nie pozwala na rozgrzewkę, nie uczy pierwszych ruchów, czy kroków – wpycha nas pod wodę swojego bólu, obmywa nas rozpaczą, topi nas w tęsknocie… Nie zważa na konwenanse. „Chronologia wody” potrafi uderzyć znienacka i nikt nie będzie przygotowany na tę dawkę emocji. To kolejna po „Latach” i „Trylogii kopenhaskiej” opowieść o doświadczeniach kobiecości – najbardziej intymna, przepełniona surową cielesnością, bezwstydna i dzika w swoim umiłowaniu życia. Ponad wszystko.
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,038 followers
September 25, 2020
How to describe this writing and this writer? Feral? Wildly alive? Pulsating? It feels as if it bursts out of her, filled with juicy innards in a way that expresses everything about being human and flawed and fighting to stay alive. It is not how to write, but it is how to write as who you are—being only that, but with a lot of training and intelligence.

I have no idea how to describe what Lidia Yuknavitch does. But I’m glad she does it. It takes my breath away and pumps me full of oxygen . . . and hope.
Profile Image for Richard Thomas.
Author 93 books640 followers
May 6, 2011
(This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown)

“Given a choice between grief and nothing, I choose grief.”
—William Faulkner

I wasn’t prepared for this memoir, this baptism by fire that Lidia Yuknavitch pours out onto the pages of The Chronology of Water (Hawthorne Books). I was aware of the controversy about the exposed breast on the cover, the grey band of paper wrapped around the book to appease those who can’t stand to see such obscenity. I was lured in by the glowing testimonials of authors I know and respect, people like Chuck Palahniuk, Monica Drake, and Chelsea Cain (who writes the introduction), her close-knit group of fellow authors, her workshop, support group, therapy and champions. But no, I wasn’t prepared for her voice—the power, the lyrical passages, and the raw, crippling events that destroyed her youth, but made her the woman she is today: fearless, funny, honest, and kind. By not being prepared, the opening lines hit me hard, and I in fact stopped for a moment, realizing that this was going to be bumpy ride, a dark story, but one that held nothing back. So I took a breath, and I went under:

“The day my daughter was stillborn, after I held the future pink and rose-lipped in my shivering arms, lifeless tender, covering her face in tears and kisses, after they handed my dead girl to my sister who kissed her, then to my first husband who kissed her, then to my mother who could not bear to hold her, then out of the hospital room door, tiny lifeless swaddled thing, the nurse gave me tranquilizers and a soap and sponge. She guided me to a special shower. The shower had a chair and the spray came down lightly, warm. She said, That feels good, doesn’t it. The water. She said, you are still bleeding quite a bit. Just let it. Ripped from vagina to rectum, sewn closed. Falling water on a body.”

I am a father, but I am not a mother. I know the difference. I was there when my twins were born, my boy and my girl pulled out into the harsh lights of the sterile, cold hospital room. I watched them cut my wife open, and I saw the pool of blood on the tile creep ever closer to the little blue booties on my feet. It was violent and beautiful—it was a miracle and a shock. But it was life—my life continued, our children, finally here. To have it end in death? If one of them (I can barely even utter the word BOTH) had died, I would have been hollowed out, gutted. I am not a mother, but my heart went out to her in the opening sentences of this novel. She had me. And this was the first page of the book. What could possibly come next? Where would this go? How do you climb above this, survive? In a number of ways: you scream and you cry, you drink yourself to oblivion, you hallucinate other worlds, you bond and you break, you hide and you seek, and if you’re lucky, you are seen, you are found.

Lidai Yuknavitch grew up in an abusive household. Her older sister did all that she could to protect Lidia, but in her own time, her sister left, she fled, a matter of survival. They were both trying to flee a violent father and a drunk of a mother, running for their sanity and their lives:

“In my house the sound of leather on the skin of my sister’s bare bottom stole my very voice out of my throat for years. The great thwack of the sister who goes before you. Taking everything before you are born. The sound of the belt on the skin of her made me bite my own lip. I’d close my eyes and grip my knees and rock in the corner of my room. Sometimes I’d bang my head rhythmically against the wall.

I still cannot bear her silence while being whipped. She must have been eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Before it stopped.”

Lidia’s father was abusive, physically, and sexually. And her mother? She was also fighting to survive, but often drowned under the weight of it all, disappearing into a bottle, and herself, rarely the savior she should be:

“My mother was an alcoholic manic depressant borderline suicide case with a limp. All of that.”

That would have a weight as well. Which is worse: the father that breaks you down or the mother who turns her back on it all? Eventually, her mother would be her saving grace, signing the paperwork that would get Lidia out of the house, and off to school, a full ride to pursue her swimming, a way out of that demon box, the anger and screaming, the nights spent huddled under blankets in sheer terror, the days spent pretending it wasn’t real.

Often, Lidia would turn inward to herself, retreat into the world of swimming, for underwater things were magical, and reality was never quite clear. Which is the real world and which is the imaginary? Why not flip them, why not retreat, or expand, or create? Unfortunately, even in the tiny corners of the world where she could succeed, with her swimming, life was unfair, random acts of cruelty, dreams crushed without hesitation. No father, no mother, no coach (Randy Reese) worth much of anything:

“At the State Swimming Championships my senior year our 200 yard medley relay had the best time in the nation. I stood on the podium with the three other girls and looked out into the stands. My father wasn’t anywhere. My mother smelled like vodka – it seemed I could smell it all the way across the pool. Randy Reese didn’t even look at me. Then Jimmy Carter took all little girl dreams of swimmer glory away from our bodies with a boycott – Randy’s famous pool full of winners included – anyway. There was no word left to belong to. Not athlete, not daughter.

I hated Randy Reese. I hated Jimmy Carter. I hated god. Also my math teacher, Mr. Grosz. I hated my father most of all, a hate that never left but just changed forms. My life had been ruined by men. Now even the water seemed to forsake me.”

Her life ruined by men, it’s no wonder that she sought out women. She sought out women to fulfill her sexual fantasies. She sought out women in order to create a sisterhood. She sought out women to become her surrogate mother. Anyone that was a safe place to land, that didn’t smell of her father, didn’t remind her of his hands, his face, his voice. But, that wouldn’t be enough. Sometimes we seek out that which destroys us, drawn to the very flames that have burned us before. It’s complicated, the psychology of abuse—how girls beaten and molested by fathers can only be satisfied by men that do the same thing. But that circle of shame, the feeling of being less than worthy, of not being entitled to happiness, it stays with you. When the habit, the ritual, is to be punished, told you are worthless, it becomes increasingly difficult to accept any sort of kindness, to be happy with a gentle partner, to love and be loved. It takes time.

Along the way, Lidia sought out punishment, striving to free her demons, to release the pain and branding from her past. She got involved in bondage and discipline—complicated, freeing, sex play with an older dominatrix:

“When she bound my wrists with thin black leather twine Christ-like to the wood I started crying.

‘Mother, I would like to be whipped.’

Then she would present a long cat of nine tails – its dark red leather strips the color of blood. ‘Tell me where you would like to be whipped, Angel.’

So I told her. And begged her. She whipped my breasts. She whipped my stomach. My hipbones. Late into the day. I did not make a sound, though I wept a cleansing. Oh how I cried. The crying of something leaving a body. And then she whipped me red where my shame had been born and where my child had died, and I spread my legs as far as I could to take it. Even my spine ached.

Afterward she would cradle me in her arms and sing to me. And bathe me in a bubble bath. And dress me in soft cotton. And bring me dinner in bed with wine. Only then would we make love. Then sleep. Ten years to bring a self back. In between seeing her I swam in the U of O pool. I swam in the literature of the English Department. In water and words and bodies.

My safe word was ‘Belle.’

But I never used it.”

Lidia evolved. She slowly freed herself from her past, becoming her own woman. She started to have success, and like many things in her life, when it rained, it poured. Four letters with four acceptances, finally the world understand her work, wanted her to study, to teach, to publish. In the spirit of Virginia Woolf she arranged whatever pieces came her way.

Eventually her parents would die. Her mother first, her father two years later. These were not easy deaths for her to swallow. But she would care for her father, even after all that he had put her through, choosing to be the bigger person, to transcend his trespasses. She would not leave her father in a nursing home in Florida:

“Have you ever visited nursing homes in Gainesville, Florida? I have. Let me put it this way. Walking in the door of one brings a disgust to your throat like someone grabbed it. They smell like urine and dead skin and Lysol. The creatures tooling around in wheelchairs or ‘walking’ down halls look befuddled. Like hunched over zombies. In the dining room women whose hair and lipstick are not on straight and men who’ve wet themselves shove pureed gruel in their mouths. But what makes them particularly hideous in a Floridian sense is the heat. The humidity. The air conditioning that doesn’t work quite right. The mold on the walls here and there. Cockroaches. Sometimes the old meat sacks sagging toward death in their beds are restrained.

Whoever I am, I am not a woman who could leave someone to rot in a place like that. Even him.”

But later, when disposing of his ashes, there is still a fragment of hate:

“His ashes were in a plastic bag about the size of a loaf of wonder bread. The ashes were white. I went to the funeral home to get them, but that’s not all I got. I had asked for his pacemaker and defibrillator. The two mechanical things attached to his heart that had kept him alive after he drowned. How strange they looked, without a body. Eventually Andy helped me smash them on the garage floor with a mallet.”

Lidia Yuknavitch is an inspiring woman. Her story brought me to tears several times. The abuse she survived, ingested, and spit out in order to transform herself into the swan that she is today, no longer the ugly duckling, the failure she was so often called by her father, was indeed a life-changing upbringing. The entire time I was reading this book a mantra of mine kept flitting about my ears. I’ll paraphrase here, but in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “What does not kill me makes me stronger”. Lidia must be made of stone by now, marble—diamonds perhaps. Her prose is lyrical, and raw, and dynamic. Her story is haunting, touching, and heart breaking. But it is the truth, and it is all here in an expansive, Technicolor dream.

I can’t end this review any better than the final chapter of her memoir, so in the poetic words of Lidia Yuknavitch, persevere:

“Listen, I can see you. If you are like me. You do not deserve most of what has happened or will. But there is something I can offer you. Whoever you are. Out there. As lonely as it gets, you are not alone. There is another kind of love.

It’s the love of art. Because I believe in art the way other people believe in god.

In art I’ve met an army of people – a tribe that gives good company and courage and hope. In books and painting and music and film. This book? It’s for you. It’s water I made a path through…Come in. The water will hold you.”
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