Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kathryn Harrison to speak Nov. 11

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 8:59 AM

The acclaimed writer, who authored fiction and nonfiction books like Envy, The Seal Wife and, perhaps most famously, The Kiss (but more on that in a minute), will speak at CC's Gates Common Room Tues., Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. It's free and open to the public.

Harrison will discuss her newest work, Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured, which critics say effortlessly weaves compelling narrative with intensely researched facts. Author Stacy Schiff had this praise for the book:
A girl walks into a prophecy and winds up a myth. How does that even happen? In Joan of Arc, Kathryn Harrison makes the most improbable of lives — that of the restless farmer’s daughter who casts a spell over 15th century France — seem possible again. Working from trial records and modern literature, the Bible and Bresson, Harrison marshals all the forces. The result is sumptuous, as rich and radiant as Joan’s (apocryphal) golden cloak.
Kirkus and Booklist were similarly impressed.

Back to The Kiss, though, for those who are unaware of Harrison and her impact in the publishing industry. Harrison's 1997 memoir chronicled her affair with her father, which started when she was 20 and he had reentered her life after being largely absent throughout her childhood. The Kiss was obviously controversial, but ultimately widely deemed a success. In "Life With Father: Incestuous and Soul-Deadening," the New York Times wrote of the "appalling but beautifully written memoir:"
You read on, for once dreading instead of looking forward to the inevitable consummation. You are stunned by the author's imagery of despair: the cockroach she traps under a glass the last night of her father's first visit, when she discovers that he is sleeping with her mother. The ''dim, drowned light'' in the basement apartment she rents when his obsessive attention forces her temporarily to withdraw from college after her junior year. The Polaroids her father takes of her naked: ''The expression on my face, flat and dispossessed, is one I see years later in a museum exhibit of pictures taken of soldiers injured during the Civil War.''
However, Harrison would go on to have a successful life with much happiness. This is stark contrast to Caroline Knapp, who published her own memories in 1996, with Drinking: A Love Story. (And let's not forget Mary Karr's The Liars' Club, from 1995).

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