June 18th, 2011 / 1:42 pm
Massive People

Fan Mail #2: Lidia Yuknavitch

Dear Lidia Yuknavitch,

It’s your birthday, and I am grateful you exist.

Even if it wasn’t your birthday, I’d be grateful.

Lidia, the first book of yours I read was in 2004, Her Other Mouths. I read it for a class with Steve Tomasula. I read it and thought: fuck, writing really can do this. Mind you: I’d read Kathy Acker. I’d read James Joyce. I’d read Raymond Federman. I’d read Samuel Beckett and Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein and David Foster Wallace and Anne Carson. I’d read a whole bunch of people, but it was your book that told me that I could write what I wanted to write, how I wanted to write it. Your book was brazen and unapologetic. Most of the other books I was reading were cowering and pretty, like princesses rather than heroines.

Your book was a heroine.

Lidia, you published my first book. You gave my crazy manuscript a chance. It’s hard to say what my life would be like now if you hadn’t, but I’m relatively sure that I would’ve quit writing. I mean: thank you.

Lidia, I taught your book Real to Reel at an all-women’s Catholic college. I taught it next to other brilliant innovative women writers. We read your book between Selah Saterstrom and Kate Bernheimer. We read your book between Anne Carson and Carole Maso. Between all these women, my students hungered for more of you. I wish you could’ve seen their responses. Watching them, I thought of myself, just a few years before. On their faces, my epiphany about writing. They had it too. You performed some kind of magic on us. We are under your spell.

Your books, Lidia, they’ve been influential. Your writing, Lidia, silences and stuns. You write about the horror of experience, and you make it beautiful. You make the most grotesque things simultaneously rending and healing. You make the flat page corporeal. You take the page and make our bodies respond. You make skin hurt and eyes hurt and bones break. Easy as hearts.

Those two books of yours I’d read, they impacted me.

Those two books of yours I’d read, they were like practice runs, like you had to train your readers, to prepare us, for The Chronology of Water.

The Chronology of Water. Your memoir. I read it in a day. Then, I read it again. I want to call it perfect, the perfect memoir, but it isn’t. It couldn’t be. Because your book is all about mistakes, it is all about hurt and pain, it is about redemption and survival. Your book is tortured femininity and tortured masculinity. Your book makes no distinction.

Your searing sentences.

Your paragraphs dizzy with adrenaline.

Each page, a requiem.

I read The Chronology of Water knowing what the ending would be. I know you. You are fine. You are a powerhouse in the indie lit world. Young writers look up to you. We want to emulate you. Knowing you today did not make enduring the heartbreak in the text any easier. It did not make the innuendoes any less painful. It did not alleviate the projection of your corporeal experience onto my corporeal experience. It was like you were writing on my body, on my skin, into my muscles. And it hurt. It’s been two months since I finished your book. It still hurts.

Lidia, I’ve been trying to write a review of your book since I finished it, but I couldn’t. I would sit in front of my laptop and stare. I couldn’t find a form that would adequately express my reaction and gratitude. And so, I write you this letter instead. Another piece of fan mail. From me to you. Happy birthday.

Your fan,


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  1. Molly Gaudry

      I love this letter. Thank you, Lily! And Lidia, happy birthday! XOXO!

  2. Scott mcclanahan

      This is great and Lidia is too.

  3. Samuel Gulpan

      A beautiful piece, here. Thank you for writing and sharing this! I’ve only read The Chronology of Water by Lidia and am seeking more of her work. Truly, she is one of the most inspiring writers I’ve read this year, along with Steve Tomasula.

  4. Rhughes

      Wonderful Birthday review fan letter!

  5. Lidiamiles

      oh my heart. lily. bonesong. the day your writing was born on the page i came through a white fire to meet you. please can we hold hands, i said. i will treasure this always. for. ever. i love you. lidia

  6. Janey Smith

      Dear Lily: Yes.

  7. Dawn.

      Yesyesyes. Lovely letter, Lily. I’ve watched that video (and The Rumpus video, and some older video I randomly found while tipsy that is also fabulous) five times. I’m a squealing little puddle of fangirl when it comes to Lidia.

  8. Jeje Lin


  9. Jeje Lin


  10. leapsloth14

      Thanks HTML. I just bought this. I would actually have money if not for this site.

  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TCPEKwiJvE hamliterature: Lidia Yuknavitch The Chronology of Water.m | jjjjosh

      […] Lily Hoang writes a letter to Lidia Yuknavitch on her birthday. […]