Monday, June 16, 2008

Review: While They Slept by Kathryn Harrison

Today in January Magazine’s non-fiction section, Diane Leach reviews While They Slept by Kathryn Harrison. Says Leach:

Kathryn Harrison has spent her writing life parsing her difficult childhood. Born to unmarried teenage parents in 1962, the infant Kathryn was “ransomed,” as her mother put it, to her maternal grandparents. Her father was banished. Her mother, openly relieved at recovering her youthful freedom, moved into an apartment and spent little time with her daughter. What time she did spend was fractious, critical and unkind. The appearance of Harrison’s father, when the author was 20, seemed a dream come true: the man adored her. In fact, he couldn’t keep his hands off her. The ensuing incestuous relationship shattered Harrison’s already fragile sense of self. Years later, she documented the episode in her infamous memoir, The Kiss.

The Kiss was followed by the essay collection Seeking Rapture and the wrenching The Mother Knot. In each, Harrison uses her elegant prose style like a scalpel, prising apart the layers of damage in an effort -- seemingly largely successful -- to heal herself. Now happily married to writer Colin Harrison and a devoted mother of three, Harrison has not outrun her demons as much as recognized their destructive capabilities, arming herself for their periodic onslaughts. Yet she retains a grim fascination with dysfunction, murder, trauma. How do people survive? Or not? It is this overarching interest that leads her to the Gilley family.
The full review is here.

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