Why do we cry? How do we cry? And what does it mean? A scientific, cultural, artistic examination by a young poet on the cusp of motherhood.
'A deeply felt, and genuinely touching, book' Esme Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias
'Spellbinding and propulsive' Leni Zeumas, author of Red Clocks
'The Crying Book is a rigorous and urgent work but it reads like an intimate gift' Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf
A DAZZLING MEDITATION ON TEARS
In this symphonic work of non-fiction, Heather Christle explores the most human of behaviours: crying. What are tears made of? Why do people cry? And why is this common, crucial act so rarely discussed? Christle unpacks the biological reasons for tears and investigates the influence of crying on art, politics, feminism, race and culture, all while opening up the intimate story of her own tears - from the suicide of her close friend to her family's history of depression, to her pregnancies, both planned and unplanned.
In these pages, we meet a feminist artist who designs a gun that shoots frozen tears. A moth that takes sustenance from feeding on the tears shed by other animals. And beautifully impractical devices for dealing with grief such as the 'lachrymatory', an ancient receptacle into which it was hoped 'a mourner could let fall her hot tears'. While Christle enchants us with poetic snippets on these subjects, a powerful investigation begins to accrue, examining how the history of tears is tied up with racist violence, with the stigma of mental illness, and with the ways in which glib contemporary images of motherhood fail to reckon with how rich and complicated is actually is.
Brilliant, witty and achingly honest, Christle's book creates a mosaic of science, history, culture and personal experience to find new ways of understanding life and loss. The Crying Book is a deeply intimate tribute to the fascinating strangeness of tears - and the unexpected resilience of joy.
Honest, intelligent, rapturous and surprising, The Crying Book is a poignant, personal tribute to the astonishing strangeness of tears and the startling resilience of joy.
Shatteringly beautiful - Telegraph
Luminous . . . A literary lachrymatory, both consoling and surprisingly uplifting - Observer
Poised and precise . . . [The Crying Book] reminds us - when we need it most - that we move in relationship rather than invidivual adventure, that the tender connections between our tears are all we really have to hold - Irish Times
In The Crying Book, Heather Christle makes a poignant and piercing examination of the phenomenon of tears - exhaustive, yes, but also open-ended, such that I was left clutching this book to my chest with wonder, asking myself when the last time was that I cried, and why. A deeply felt, and genuinely touching, book. - Esme Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias
The Crying Book is spellbinding and propulsive - the map of a luminous mind in conversation with books, songs, friends, scientific theories, literary histories, her own jagged joy, and despair. Heather Christle is a visionary writer
This is a book about crying, yes, but secretly it's a book about everything: pain, sleep, joy, despair, birth, art, exile, atrocity, language, weather, fish. Christle's genius - a word I've never before written to describe a living author - is her ability to see the miraculous and strange lines connecting everything to everything: 'neither parallel nor perpendicular,' she writes, but simply 'arcs that momentarily intersect before traveling on. The Crying Book is a rigorous and urgent work, but it reads like an intimate gift
This is a wonderful and profound look at the act of crying - something human and yet hidden, common and yet mysterious. I found myself reading with a thirst for the tears Heather Christle collects here - instances within literature, film, history, and the author's own life all add up to a greater understanding of what makes us human.
Poet Christle set out to make a map of every place she had cried. Instead, she ended up with this exploration of tears throughout history, in art and literature, and in her own life . . . The cumulative effect hits the mark, and readers are sure to be moved to tears themselves. This is a lovely meditation on life and death through the lens of tears, both those spurred by grief and those by joy - Booklist
Heather Christle is the author of the poetry collections The Difficult Farm; The Trees The Trees, which won the Believer Poetry Award; What Is Amazing; and Heliopause. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, London Review of Books, Poetry and many other journals. She teaches creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta. The Crying Book is her first book of non-fiction.