Ladies, my home internet was finally set up -- in my own home, at my own desk. It feels like old times as I sit here typing with a baby on my lap (and she sits too; that's how long it's been).
My copy of Parched arrived before Christmas, but Darwin seized upon it first. Thus I first encountered it in the snippets I read over his shoulder. I saw Heather exploring her grandmother's house, then I next encountered her in seedy bars, then suddenly her family was staging an intervention, then she was singing in the kitchen of the rehab house, and these were all isolated vignettes. I found it hard to imagine how the threads would be connected: how, from the wondering child delighting in snooping around grandma's house, did she descend to the sad woman hunched in the living room being confronted with the damage her drunkenness had done her family?
He handed me the book at 11:30; I put it down at 2:45.
Perhaps it underscores my self-absorption, but I spent the rest of the night laying awake composing my own memoirs. Although her descent into the depths was hellish, I knew by the very fact that I was reading her published memoir that she came out all right. But it was the format of the memoir that intrigued me. Right at the beginning I was seized by the minor detail, underlining her family's borderline poverty, of how the children wore plastic bread bags in their boots to keep out the cold. Heather King and I don't have many points of similarity (I'm a very slow drinker, for starters, so I've never been drunk in my life), but at that moment I was transported back into my own childhood, in the kitchen of our trailer, sitting on the peeling sheet vinyl floor, as my mother fastened bread bags around our socks with big rubber bands before we wrestled on our snow boots -- something I'd forgotten; something my own children will never have to remember.
Of course the problem with memoirs is that they necessarily involve other people; people who are often still alive and may disagree with one's interpretation of their actions or motivations. There are many episodes in my own life I wouldn't put into print until my mother was dead; I wondered how Heather King's family, and her mother, in particular, felt about her book. Did her mom feel that she'd been unaffectionate? Would she say that Heather was making a big deal out of nothing? I ask honestly; I loved the early family sections because family life is so universal that even without being like my own family (now or then) many sections rang true and clear. I don't have a similar paradigm for drunkenness.
I've been reading Heather's blog, Shirt of Flame; I wonder if we might contact her and ask her to comment over here on our reading of Parched. (Betty, you'd enjoy her current post, which includes a fine dissection of Jonathan Franzen.)
1 day ago