Showing posts with label Heather King. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heather King. Show all posts

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heather King on Faith and Stories

Did you see Heather King's latest essay at Patheos, The Word and Our Stories?
I thought this passage was particularly illuminating and very much reminded me of our discussion about the endings of memoirs:

To be a sober alcoholic is to have a very particular experience of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Just as the Gospels mostly lead up to the Passion, then give us a very short, very patchy glimpse of the Resurrection, an alcoholic's story—what it was like, what happened, what it's like now—is generally about three-quarters "drunkalogue" and one-quarter sobriety. That's not because sobriety is less "important," but because the Resurrection is inherent in the way the story is told, which is with humility, gratitude, and often humor that would do the nearest Comedy Club proud.

As with the Gospels, the drunk's Resurrection is patchy, ephemeral, incapable of being held onto. Just as on the road to Emmaus the disciples recognized Christ in the breaking of bread and he immediately vanished from their sight, an authentic story describes our moments of joy, our epiphanies on earth, as fleeting. An authentic story imparts the sense that—just as with those post-Resurrection stories in the Gospels—sometimes we "see" Christ, sometimes we don't; sometimes we recognize him in the flesh, and sometimes we experience him more as spirit.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Charlotte Bronte's "Biographical Notice"


I'm rereading Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights with a tutee this month. The text includes an "Editor's Preface" and a "Biographical Notice" written by Charlotte, which have been reprinted in (as far as I can tell) all subsequent editions. I found this passage from the Biographical Notice, which is about herself and Anne as much as Emily, especially interesting:

Too often do reviewers remind us of the mob of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before the "writing on the wall," and unable to read the characters or make known the interpretation. We have a right to rejoice when a true seer comes at last, some man in whom is an excellent spirit, to whom have been given light, wisdom, and understanding, who can accurately read the "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" of an original mind . . . and who can say with confidence, "This is the interpretation thereof."

Living authors like Heather King can show up in the comboxes and make everything more interesting, but we can only guess what the dead ones might think of us!

Interestingly (perhaps ironically!), this Biographical Notice is also where we find Charlotte's famous description of her other sister Anne's Tenant of Wildfell Hall as "an entire mistake." She was never happy that Anne had had it published, and after Anne's death, she kept the publisher from printing any new editions. She clearly believed she had accurately read the "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" of her own sister's mind--and I suppose that of all the critics who have ever lived, she has the strongest basis for saying so. But were her actions condescending or what?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Guest Post: Heather King Responds

MrsDarwin sez: I wrote to Heather King and asked if she'd be so kind as to comment on our reading of Parched, and she was gracious enough to stop by, and to write a guest post in response.

If you're not reading Heather's blog, Shirt of Flame, then tolle et lege nunc.

Hi there folks--please know how honored I am that you read Parched, and how gratified I am that you liked it (I think)...For me, the story of a drunk who gets sober is a death and resurrection story, and death and resurrection is the deepest, most interesting, most ever-astonishing story possible.
I've been reflecting lately upon the trajectory of the story of Christ in the Gospels: a very long lead-in to the Passion, then the Passion, then the fairly short "description" of the patchy, ephemeral, now-you-see-it, now-you-don't Resurrection. The Resurrection is inherent in the way the story is told. No victimhood, no whining, no anger, no blaming, no reproach, no glamorization of evil, no melodrama made out of (though no diminishing of either) Christ's own suffering. And I think that same trajectory, and that same approach, is what makes for a good memoir. If ever there was hero, it is Christ, but even for Christ, the focus was on the Father, and the Father's glory, not on him.
I agonized long and hard over the family member aspect of the book. One brother asked to be taken out completely, and when I talked to the lawyer from the publishing house (who goes over the memoir with a fine-toothed comb) I was shocked when he at one point asked: "Is there any chance that your mother would sue you?" I said, "WHY?" And the passage he quoted was the (obviously exaggerated for comic effect) one where I described my friend coming over for supper and my mother serving everybody a teaspoon of mashed potatoes and three peas! Which could apparently "damage her reputation in the community."
I replied, "Truth is an absolute defense to a slander claim and I have seven brothers and sisters who would take the stand and say it was more like TWO peas"...
But seriously, my mother loved the book, or said she did. I had a reading in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, next to the town where I grew up, and the whole family, or those who lived in the area, came. After all, I dedicated the book to my parents, profusely thanked them, gave my mother credit for saving my life, and took full responsibility for my actions during and after drinking. But it's true that different family members have a very different view of, and very different experiences of and interpretations of the same event. So I have been very careful in writing about my family, and in fact have hardly done so at all, since...
Here’s to more good reading, and true writing,

Monday, January 3, 2011

Favorite Quote from Parched

"It was as if the part of my brain that governed experience had been lobotomized, and this sense of being so deeply separated from my truest, sanest self--the fact that on one hand I felt compelled to engage in behavior that basically consisted of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that one the other hand I was somehow willing it--created a moral/psychic conflict of such ghastly proportions and satanic complexity I simply tuned it out. Unable to reconcile my warring parts, I stuffed my feelings, tamped down every uncomfortable emotion, compartmentalized myself into two different people--good versus bad, self-pitying versus compassionate, sarcastic versus thoughtful--never knowing who I was, or able to predict who I was going to be on any given occasion." (pp 148-9)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Heather King's "Parched"--First Impressions

I’m about halfway through the book, and should finish with one more night of good reading, but I wanted to get something up here for those who are ready to begin the discussion.

I’m enjoying the non-linear story-telling, sort of weaving the different elements of her life into a full portrait of the addict, but that leaves me with a non-linear approach to discussing her work. The following are a few pulled quotes that spoke to me, and a couple reasons why they did.


“When I wasn’t drinking in crappy bars, I was home by myself reading: a life that was achingly lonely, and yet perversely designed to prevent anybody from ever getting close enough to really know me.” (p 12)

Comparing this detail with other addiction stories, “Lit” and “The Edge of Sadness” it seems a recurring attribute of addiction is self isolation. I think it’s interesting how most addictive behaviors (internet use comes to mind) at first appear to be a remedy for isolation, but eventually become a reason to self-isolate.


“When it came to sibling dynamics, this meant we had one basic mode of communication—ridicule; and one base mode of interaction—violence.” (p 35)

For some reason this makes me want to have more kids. It gives me the sense that a lot of what happened in my childhood, and is currently taking place between my children, might not be as out of the ordinary as I thought it was. Sure it’s painful for everyone—but so’s life. And it does sort of confirm my suspicions that these modes of interaction among siblings can help build character.


“And it occurs to me now, as I write, that those two things I did at Nana’s—daydream and snoop—are pretty much what I do today for work.”(47)

This whole scene with her Nana was so touching to me, and also very similar to my own experiences with my Grandmother. I loved every minute of it. And again, it gives the idea that child-rearing is rarely as complicated as we want to make it. Give a girl a drawer to go through and she’ll be happy for a loooong time.


One of the most enjoyable elements of this book for me is the freedom with which she writes about the darker episodes of her life. I know that sounds oxy moronic, but it gives me hope for the kinds of books that can be written, read and accepted into the Redemption Narrative. We’ve discussed here before how glossing over details, like Merton’s illegitimate child, and Dorothy Day’s abortion, causes us to underestimate the immense power of God’s mercy. To me, all these details, though they detail a life of incredible suffering, help to affirm the life of faith.

An Excerpt from Parched

For those who can't get their hands on the book right away:

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Parched" by Heather King

Parched it is. And I'm sure all of you already read her blog, but if not please check out Shirt of Flame.

...Would like some Divine Intoxication myself.