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Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips Paperback – May 1, 2013
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"In electric, adventurous prose, Eli Hastings' Clearly Now, the Rain tells the story of loving one wrecked soul, and the rich, dark wonder of the joys to be found along the way." —Paul Lisicky, author, Famous Builder and Lawnboy
“Some relationships make us question whether we’ve loved enough, others whether we’ve loved too much. But Seattle author Eli Hastings grapples with an even more perplexing issue in his latest book: Did he love the right way? His new memoir, ‘Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips,’ is a drug, romance and adventure-filled exploration of that gut-wrenching question, a story that is both thoroughly of its time (post-grunge Seattle) and timeless in theme.”—Tyrone Beason, The Seattle Times
"Hastings writes a graceful, unbiased portrait of someone whose self-destructive fate cannot be altered, and he does so with incredible power and sensitivity. Clearly Now, the Rain is a hypnotic, surreal, and lyrical testament to the capacities of friendship and the outer limits of love. By the time you reach the book’s end, the enigmatic Serala will be impossible to shake from your consciousness."— Margaux Fragoso, author of Tiger, Tiger
"Clearly Now, the Rain is an unflinching account of how it feels to be young and flirting with the abyss in America. The narrator’s observations as he and his friends ride rough across the U.S.A., all pulled to orbit around their friend, lover, and lost soul, Serala, are also an investigation into the dangerously different ways that people respond to addiction. This is an elegy, yes, as if told by a boy who began his quest tutored by Kerouac’s ghost, but became, on this hard road, a man schooled in love by the spirit of the Dalai Lama."— Rachel Rose, author of Giving My Body to Science
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There's a famous quote from Ernest Hemingway: "Never write about a place ('Her, as a place') until you're far away from it...." With that said, I think this book was written at its right time. I will not say the wounds have healed, because they never do--only take on other shapes. I will not say, in the end, it is about forgiveness, because what is there to forgive? It is not about allowing yourself to forget them--those who cannot return--but about allowing yourself the strength to let them go.
Serala takes her place next to another crooked hero of our city (Seattle)—Cobain. And not just because both died like ciphers in the wet streets, but because both, I believe (perhaps wrongly) share a core flaw—a discontentment with life itself around which all of their drugs, successes and, sadly, the great people in their lives, swirl.
Serala—a near rhyme with Sansara, the endless burning circle of sorrow and spite-filled re-birth—is a force to be encountered. For me personally, Eli’s depiction made me admire his courage as a writer, but also, it made me admire THE LOVE between the group of people (friends, family) Eli speaks of. Throughout the happenings of their lives, they are able to drive across a country for the other, able to suffer with and out-drink and out-talk the other in a youthful abandon so resilient it nearly counterbalances Serala’s tragedy.
Formally, I don’t have much to say other than praise—which may bore so I’ll keep it short. I sense that the bulk of the last few years work on this has been spent on form and I really think that work paid off. The memoir is focused (almost painfully so) but the narrative arc is strongly felt and propulsive enough to make it grabbing. It allows plenty of room for the banality of life (Samar’s sickly kitten; Sasha the dog chewing on a deer spine); yet it links these stray moments thoughtfully to the issue at hand—Serala’s demise. The same is true for the way larger events like 911 and WTO concuss into our lives and qualify the minute situation. I admire the clarity and the loyalty to the continuity of theme at work there, to say nothing of the accessibly, lyrical sentences. It’s a quality lacking I feel in memoirs written by non-writers and Eli is a writer!
It's a staggering reality for me, a girl who's parallel life (also a high school c/o '96 grad) took place in bright and perky south Florida, immersed in Baptist youth group culture (a culture not forced on my by religious parents, but self-chosen no less) that transitioned into a similar perky life at a large university where often the worst reality of the day was when I'd scored bad seats to the football game.
So, just the existence of a Serala, is staggering. Because she's not a stereotype (like the junkie mother mentioned in passing, later in the book, who inevitably isn't a stereotype either but who is there to tell her story?) and she's not a girl one simply puts on a prayer list. (Ha! Just the thought.) And she's not a girl one envies for her beauty or her professional confidence and income. She's a soul tormented by the world's violence, a violence she managed to bring close, often inside. She's a soul tormented by an exasperating inability to sleep. The description of how she spent her wakeful evenings one of the most sorrowful of the book. To suffer and never rest? Hell on earth. The descriptions of what she would take, enough to knock out an elephant, that would still have no effect on her increasingly thinning frame, incredible. A super-human strength most unwelcome.
Eli is not just our witness. He brings everything in his life and tangles it up with Serala. His own unhealthy love relationships, his complicated love for his broken but surviving father, his allegiance to but fears for his younger brother, his team of friends. And we journey with him through undergraduate life, studying abroad, involvement in the political ongoings of the day, then off to graduate school (where I was co-existing a continuation of my perky life, already married, glibly going about life on my own stretch of suburbia), a stint in Montana, and finally back home to Seattle. Journeys within journeys occur in the context of Serala (moving closer, journeying with, leaving behind) and weave through his lived-hard years.
Is her death a tragedy? An inevitability? A necessary freedom for Eli? Herself? Both?
Brutal and beautiful and... life rendered raw.