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The Chronology of Water: A Memoir Paperback – April 1, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"I've read Ms. Yuknavitch's book The Chronology of Water, cover to cover, a dozen times. I am still reading it. And I will, most likely, return to it for inspiration and ideas, and out of sheer admiration, for the rest of my life. The book is extraordinary." —Chuck Palahniuk, Pygmy

"I love this book and I am thankful that Lidia Yuknavitch has written it for me and for everyone else who has ever had to sometimes kind of work at staying alive. It’s about the body, brain, and soul of a woman who has managed to scratch up through the slime and concrete and crap of life in order to resurrect herself. The kind of book Janis Joplin might have written if she had made it through the fire - raw, tough, pure, more full of love than you thought possible and sometimes even hilarious. This is the book Lidia Yuknavitch was put on the planet to write for us." —Rebecca Brown, author of The Gifts of the Body

"The Chronology of Water’s central metaphor works beautifully: we all keep our heads above water, look around, and enjoy our corporeal life despite all the reasons not to; beyond that, the book is immensely impressive to me on a human level: the narrator/speaker/protagonist/author emerges from a seriously hellish childhood and spooky adolescence into a middle age not of bliss, certainly, but of convincing engagement and satisfaction." —David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

"This intensely powerful memoir touches depths yet unheard of in contemporary writing. I read it at one sitting and wondered for days after about love, time, and truth. Can't get me any more excited than this." —Andrei Codrescu, author of The Poetry Lesson

"Flooded with light and incandescent beauty, Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water cuts through the heart of the reader. These fierce life stories gleam, fiery images passing just beneath the surface of the pages. You will feel rage, fear, release, and joy, and you will not be able to stop reading this deeply brave and human voice." —Diana Abu-Jaber, Origin: A Novel

"Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir The Chronology of Water is a brutal beauty bomb and a true love song. Rich with story, alive with emotion, both merciful and utterly merciless, I am forever altered by every stunning page. This is the book I’m going to press into everyone’s hands for years to come. This is the book I've been waiting to read all of my life." —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

From the Inside Flap

INTRODUCTION BY CHELSEA CAIN:: This is not your mother’s memoir. In The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch expertly moves the reader through issues of gender, sexuality, violence, and the family from the point of view of a lifelong swimmer turned artist. In writing that explores the nature of memoir itself, her story traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman’s developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women. Her emergence as a writer evolves at the same time and takes the narrator on a journey of addiction, self-destruction, and ultimately survival that finally comes in the shape of love and motherhood.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Hawthorne Books (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979018838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979018831
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beyond its clear, dazzling lyrical passages, beyond its fierce energy and unending optimism, there is so much to say about this confessional, bravely written memoir, and you can be sure that The Chronology of Water is an important book. Its themes -- womanhood, motherhood, stillbirth, women's reproductive rights, bisexuality, love and fatherhood, promiscuity and sexual violence, drug and alcohol abuse, sorrow and grief, hope, and survival -- are cultural and political talking points, significant because these issues ought to be discussed and must be heard. That Lidia Yuknavitch is brave enough to begin these discussions with her readers is well worth applauding, and I think it would be a shame and an oversight to think anything less of the importance, and relevance, of this book.
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Format: Paperback
I might've liked this book when I was 15. It reads like it was written by a 15 year old. Here, let me tell it to you straight no chaser (if you think this is a clever turn of phrase, good news! It'll appear repeatedly in the book): I was so disappointed it made me angry.

I can deal with stories that are all style, no substance––as long as it's good style. The frustrating thing here is that there is obviously a ton of substance to be found in Yuknavitch's life but she tries too hard to play word games which aren't half as new or interesting as she thinks they are. The genuinely touching moments get lost in all that static. She proudly proclaims that she's a "weird" writer ("'Experimental' sounds dumb, and 'Innovative' sounds strangely snooty") who likes to break the rules of language, but none of that creativity is displayed here. It's not experimental and definitely not innovative to use the same tired, cliché phrase over and over again in a >300 page book, but I guess it could be weird. Or lazy. Or maybe just bad writing.

There are … dramatic pauses that would make any adolescent diarist proud. They happen … quite often. There are lots of run-on sentences I mean it's to convey the urgency and the wonder and the breathtaking beauty and drama and the whole everything of everything of it all but you know when it happens so often and watch out here's a wordbond I just made up wow isn't that cool and edgy and awesome and really my point is that after a while these blocks of text get exhausting and not in a good way. They lose their effect and it becomes a chore to slog through them.
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Format: Paperback
This book is not pretty. It does not talk about an eating disorder. You will not like the protagonist/voice. This book knows no redemption. Finally, a book that can tell you what the world feels like on your nerves. This book tells you what it feels feels like to be a woman, to have a body that is as electric, as alive as any man's. This book is so spectacular in its ordinariness, it will give you permission to be so too. If you want to read a memoir that won't spoon feed you society's rhetoric on why good girls go bad, why girls eat their feelings, or try not to screw their feelings away, then read this. Read this book if you've ever felt ugly, or did things that were ugly. Read this book if you are lonely. Read this book because if you do not have the words for what happened to you, maybe Lidia Yuknavitch does.
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Format: Kindle Edition
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.
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