wasted-marya hornbacher

“do you want to touch it?”

shouts to david bester for the release of sterling #3-all stories matter. it was an honour to be a pinch reader on thursday night, and that line was the best one i got to say. this book was actually suggested by mister bester, and true to the recommendation, marya hornbacher is an incredible writer, but her subject matter makes for some visceral reactions whilst reading. i’ve been reading some heavy ones lately, which has made for some interesting conversations at the cash, this being the first of the trilogy that was followed by room and newjack (the current). a customer went home today and returned a few hours later with a typed, personalized reading list, so hey-that’s not too shabby.

“Had we a god, it might have been Dionysus. We, his followers, imagined ourself maenads, half-believing in divine possession, half mocking it. Either way, it was a Dionysian sort of time. Dionysus/Bacchus, it is said, was driven mad by his education. There was more information about the world, about our opportunities, about the limits and elasticity, than we probably knew how to process. A few too many of us fell for the old romantic story of the mad artist, the genius made idiot savant by the swells and falls of music, language, color on canvas, ceaselessly, manically, playing inside his head. We wanted to be that genius, that idiot mad with the world in his mind. A thrum of self-destruction, anger and joy all tangled up, ran through the halls, the roads, the dorms.
We were very hungry.” (104)

huh. i only know about the drunken debauchery tearing animals from limb to limb tributes to dionysus. from the sounds of this, it would seem that he might be my god, too. i’ve changed my mind-i want a flat iron and a chandelier for christmas.

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2 thoughts on “wasted-marya hornbacher

  1. just because they give us life, doesn’t mean they can save us from the damages incurred:

    “I was born in Walnut Creek, California, to a pair of exceptionally intelligent, funny, wonderful people who were perhaps less than ideal candidates for parenthood. It must also be noted that I was not very well suited to childhood and should have probably been born fully formed, like Mork and Mindy’s kid, who hatched from an egg an old man and grew progressively younger. I was accidental. My conception caused my mother to lock herself in her bedroom and cry for three weeks while my father chain-smoked in the backyard under the cherry tree. They seem to have gotten it together by the time I was born, because I was met with considerably more joy than one might have expected. I had a happy childhood. I was not, personally, a happy child, but at least things were exciting. Certainly dramatic.” (17)

    “Perfume and cigarette smoke, late nights at parties where I fell asleep in the coats on the bed, the fleeting dreams of those sleeps, mingled with shadows and words. The three-footer’s perspective on the world at butt level, searching for your mother’s butt in the crowd, sensing the smell and glint of wine in glasses and men with beards and low belly laughs, tuxedos, some sense of an intricate dance of costumes and masks. It was a world that I, through the keyhole of years, watched and reached a small hand out and tried to touch.” (18)

    “Watching the two of them eat played out like this: My father, voracious, tried to gobble up my mother. My mother, haughty and stiff-backed, left my father untouched on her plate. They might as well have screamed aloud: I need you/I do not need you.” (23)

    “I was my parents’ only child, which is unfortunate, because you are their pride and joy and the bane of their existence all at once. You get way too much hyper-invested attention and become very manipulative. My father had adoptive twin sons from a previous marriage who spent some time with us, and whom I adored. When they were not there, there was no mitigating factor, no other focus of attention. My parents’ fury with each other was somehow always related to or channeled through, or deflected onto, me.” (23)

    “Me and my needs kept my father stable. Me and my needs were driving my mother away. Me and my needs retreated to my closet, disappeared into fairy tales. I started making up a world where my needs would not exist at all.
    All of us carry around countless bags of dusty old knickkacks dated from childhood: collected resentments, long lists of wounds of greater or lesser significance, glorified memories, absolute certainties that later turn out to be wrong. Humans are emotional pack rats. These bags define us. My baggage made me someone I did not want to be: a cringing girl, a sensitive plant, a needy greedy sort of thing. I began, at an early age, to try to rid myself of my bags. I began to construct a new role. I made a plan. When I was six, I wrote it down with my green calligraphy pen and buried it in the backyard. My plan: To get thin. To be great. To get out.” (35)

  2. all we need is love:

    “I threw up again that night, half-afraid that my eyeballs would explode. But it was, by far, more important that I get rid of dinner. Of course, by then, throwing up was the only way I knew to deal with fear. That paradox would begin to run my life: to know that what you are doing is hurting you, maybe killing you, and to be afraid of that fact-but to cling to the idea that this will save you, it will, in the end, make things okay.” (64)

    “Most people develop anorexia more abruptly than I do, but a lot of people travel seamlessly between bulimia and anorexia, torn between two lovers. This is what I did. I wanted to be an anoretic, but I was already seriously addicted to bulimia and couldn’t just up and leave it. I felt like I was going out of my mind. My head was never quiet. Quiet is an in-between point, implying a balance between noise and silence, between the strange blackouts I began to have-pure silence, not sleeplike but deathlike-and the hellish shrieking jumble of my own thoughts and the voices of the world.” (69)

    “It is not uncommon for people who are overweight to tell thinner people that they’re overweight, too. I didn’t know that then.” (91)

    “Later, I’d discover that the rumors were true: College dorm bathrooms rarely worked because the pipe were perpetually clogged with vomit.
    There may be some validity in the common assumption that leaving home prompts waves of fear and insecurity, that eating disorders are concurrent with separation from the mother. Personally, I think it more accurate to say that, hidden from the periscope of the childhood home, people-myself included-go for broke and don’t bother to hide it anymore. Leaving home is not so traumatic as to incite an eating disorder in people whose homes are perfectly Edenic. On the contrary, leaving home comes at a great relief, a sense of freedom. It is read, by an awful lot of us, as a ticket to undisturbed, self-destructive freedom.” (101)

    “We think of bulimia and anorexia as either a bizarre psychosis, or as a quirky little habit, a phase, or as a thing that women just /do/. We forget that it is a violent act, that it bespeaks a profound level of anger toward and fear of the self. That year, the questioning, whispering voice in my head fell silent.
    With that voice gone, my eyes changed, and subsequently my world changed as well. Through the looking glass I went, and things turned upside down, inside out. Words turned themselves around, and I heard things in reverse. Inside the looking glass, you become the center of the universe. All things are reduced to their relationship to you. You bang on the glass-people turn and see you, smile, and wave. Your mouth moves in soundless shapes. You lose a dimension, turn into a paper doll figure with painted eyes.” (123)

    “There was some part of me that could not understand, at that time, why she was so angry with me. There was a part of me that believed it was none of her business, not her problem. It was strange, because other people’s concern, their hugs and advice, just fed into it. I just wanted to get more sick. Lora’s anger scared me. I think it reminded me that I had no right. And as I would do for years to come, I got angry at the people who loved me most and therefore pulled no punches. I wanted to be coddled. I wanted someone to say, Oh, poor baby, everything will be okay, we’ll make it better. I did not want someone to say, This is bullshit. No one wants to hear the truth about themselves. Lora was telling the truth, and I moved out.” (127)

    “I think this assumption of powerlessness is the most dangerous thing an anoretic can hear. It grants license, exoneration. I liked sitting back in my chair, chain-smoking, sighing with relief and thinking: This is beyond my control. The mind lifts its hands from the wheel and says: I hand this over to a higher power. God, don’t let me crash.” (131)

    “I picture husbands all over the world, hovering in doorways, caught in a terrible tangle of language, feet and hands bound by these slippery words, glossy and meaningless as the pages of a magazine.” (180)

    “Hugs are difficult, however. Kissing is perhaps more intimate than sex itself. Similarly, hugs imply emotional, rather than sexual, intimacy. They are a gesture from one person to another of nonsexual caring, and the idea of being cared for in a nonsexual way was not something I could understand. Contact with another person reminds you that you are /also/ a person, and implies that someone cares about you as such. This felt to me profoundly false, and I felt I did not, in any way, warrant such care, such contact. Contact with another body reminds you that you have a body, a fact you are trying very hard to forget.” (202)

    “I ate a carton of yogurt, sprawled belly down on the bed while we pored over magazines, saying, Listen, listen! and reading heatedly to each other all night until the magazines were kicked to the foot of the bed in our haste for motion and heat.” (234)

    “Starvation does eventually hit the brain. First it eats all your fat. Then it eats your exoskeletal muscles. Then it eats your internal organs, one of which is the brain.” (257)

    “In her presence, I was reminded again of why I was an anoretic: fear. Of my needs, for food, for sleep, for touch, for simple conversation, for human contact, for love. I was an anoretic because I was afraid of being human. Implicit in human contact is the exposure of self, the interaction of selves. The self I’d had, once upon a time, was too much. Now there was no self at all. I was a blank.” (266)

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