publication date: 2002
This slim book of poems exemplified what makes a good memoir. It was engaging, individual, intensely personal, and somehow completely universal.
In You Remind Me of You, Corrigan described her battle with anorexia in high school, including her boyfriend’s subsequent suicide attempt. Obviously, the material was very personal and intimate. The language Corrigan used further intensified that intimacy. For example, in the first poem, on the very first page, Corrigan described her initial visit to the hospital after her boyfriend’s suicide attempt:
Right now, I weigh eighty-four pounds. My skin is yellowing
again and each morning my hair fills the shower’s drain. Later,
I will look back and wonder who let me in that room, but at this minute
I’m remembering our first date, how you told me you couldn’t imagine
marrying anyone who wasn’t Jewish and I told you, just as earnestly,
as gently, that I couldn’t imagine getting through high school
without killing myself.
Clearly the above passage is emotionally charged; and each of the dozens of poems contained the same sort of emotional impact. However, the poems also managed to relate Corrigan’s narrative to universal experiences. When Corrigan described her first date with Daniel, her boyfriend, she included these lines:
And when I went upstairs to use the bathroom,
I came back to find both lamps turned off and thought this
is going to be the night I lay back and a boy unbuttons my shirt,
the night someone else besides my older sister helps me
unclasp my bra. By tomorrow morning, I’ll know how hard it is
to breathe with the weight of a whole person balanced on my chest.
But none of those things happened.
The above lines might seem relevant only to a teenage girl. And I do sometimes have problems relating to young women in literature (as with Why We Broke Up)because what they are experiencing is so far removed from my current life. But that was not the case here. You Remind Me of You was written years after Corrigan graduated from high school, and this lent the poems perspective and self-awareness. A great example is the passage in which Corrigan tells Daniel she is not well and is leaving for the hospital:
I sit in the swivel chair, watching
you summon my parents and
I’m thinking about how grown up
and wise you are, how much older
than me you are. You are six
months older. You’re not even
old enough to drive.
In You Remind Me of You, Corrigan has crafted a beautiful and touching set of poems that does not romanticize young love, anorexia, or suicide. On the other hand, the book does not preach to its readers about those things either. Instead, Corrigan simply lays bare her past and, in the process, lays bare something in the reader, too.
5/6: seek this book out
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