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THE CRYING BOOK by Heather Christle


by Heather Christle

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-948226-44-8
Publisher: Catapult

An eclectic reflection on human waterworks.

Award-winning poet Christle (Creative Writing/Emory Univ. Heliopause, 2015, etc.) pushes the boundaries of her genre with this hybrid approach to tears. Fusing poetry with lyric essay and a significant amount of research, the author sheds new light on the basic, universal phenomenon of crying. Beyond fact—namely, that at one point or another, fluid has leaked from everyone’s eyes—some may wonder what more there is to know. This book provides the definitive answer: plenty. There are no chapters. Rather, in one long reflection, divided into small, partial-page sections, Christle examines such elements as pretend grief (she cites poet Chelsey Minnis, who calls it “cry-hustling”); “white tears,” (a Caucasian person’s response to suddenly realizing the enormity of systemic racism); and the differences between the three types of tears: basal (lubricant), irritant (a response to a foreign substance), and psychogenic (emotional). She also considers the distinction between crying and weeping—“crying is louder; weeping is wetter”—and introduces readers to professional mourners and lachrymatories, small vessels in which tears are stored. Of particular interest is Christle’s inquiry into the connections among grief, gender, and anger. She wonders “whether men kill to create an occasion for the grief they already feel.” The author infuses these tear-related themes with prose about her personal experiences, including her own treatment for depression and her staggering grief over a dear friend’s suicide. The format of the book lends itself to either quick consumption or measured contemplation; sections range from one sentence to a little more than a page. Though this structure could make for a choppy text, the transitions between her various sources and streams of thought are mostly seamless, providing a pleasurable, even restful reading experience. The narrative is saturated with significant threads of sadness, but they don’t overwhelm. Rather, the unconventional format, combined with the author’s vast survey of the topic, provides fascinating food for thought.

A surprisingly hopeful meditation on why we shed tears.