not a liar, not accurate either (Eula Biss)

Monday, October 6, 2014



As Eula Biss makes headlines with her new examination of vaccines and social inoculation, On Immunity, I have been reading her first book, an exquisite inversion of the memoir form. Released in 2002 by Hanging Loose Press, The Balloonists is a patchwork of impressions and inquiries about marriage. The kind of marriage the author's parents had. The kind the author contemplates on her own. In between, declarations of impossibility.

For example:
"At some point," my mother tells me, "you realize that your parents are not who you thought they were. You realize that they are something separate from what you have made out of them." She tells me this because she knows that I have been writing about her. It is what she says instead of saying, "You don't know me."

"For example," she says, "my sister always felt that our father didn't like her. Of course he liked her, he just didn't understand how to show that he liked her. She didn't really have a father that didn't like her, but that doesn't change the fact that she had the experience of having a father who didn't like her." My mother is telling me that I am not a liar, but that she is not what I write about her.
I took these photos yesterday while walking Valley Forge National Historical Park with my friend, the amazing writer (Badlands) and teacher, Cyndi Reeves. Over four point five miles (Cyndi tells me), the conversation ranged from Krakow to Siena to the architectural form of stories to the autobiographical possibilities of fairy tales, and, in the final uphill climb, to Eula Bliss, whose The Balloonists Cyndi had also read years before I discovered it.

I was out of breath on the hill. I was grateful beyond measure to have a friend like Cyndi to talk The Balloonists with.

5 comments:

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Ah, to have a friend who both likes to walk...and walk...and talk of literature and writing, this is a blessing, Beth. Lucky you! Thanks for sharing. ~Victoria Marie Lees

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Sounds like a gorgeous and productive walk. I was in Valley Forge Park on Saturday and it was lovely then too!

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

One of my favorite quotations is from Eula Biss:
"We have reason to believe in infinity, although everything we know ends."

Florinda Pendley Vasquez said...

I'm reading ON IMMUNITY right now, and being thoroughly absorbed by its thoughtfulness and beautiful writing. It's my first time with Eula Biss--I'll have to look for THE BALLOONISTS now!

sboulay said...
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