How to square one truth against another?
I first read Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss, a memoir of her love affair with her father, this past October. Of course, I had heard about it plenty when it was first published in 1997, but that was a year when I spent most of my energy simply getting by. As I read, I felt compelled to transcribe some of her beautiful sentences. I’m reading them again today, in light of #MeToo, and I wonder if maybe they’ll speak to you too.
“… my rage over always receiving directives disguised as gifts”
“… the dizzy rapture of starving. The power of needing nothing …. live on air, on water, on purity.”
“… I feel too much — I always have — and it’s impossible to live with my heart always breaking, equally impossible to keep myself anesthetized.”
“My father’s possessing me physically seems increasingly to be just that: Each time, he takes a little more of my life; each time, there is less of me left.”
“Is there a way to tell a stranger that once upon a time I fell from grace, I was lost so deeply in a dark wood that I’m afraid I’ll never be safe again?”
In How Our Lives Become Stories, Paul John Eakin declares that “Kathryn Harrison is the author of her younger self.” He notes the apparent disconnect between the identity depicted — “weak, controlled, victimized” — and the writer who crafted her, “strong, controlling, even manipulative.” How do we square the truth of our past selves against the identities we’ve crafted in response?