follow-up to The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet by Kim Adrian

This Wednesday I posted my review of Kim Adrian’s new memoir; but I have more to say.

The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet came to me as one of a series of happy accidents, or coincidences – or synchronicity. At this point, I’m not sure I can call it coincidence; this is more like the result of a cultivated reading life, for which I’m grateful. Recall how I loved and raved about Adrian’s Sock. That review posted just as I headed off to residency, and I heard almost immediately from her publicist, offering me this memoir for review. Well, I say no to these offers 99% of the time, plus I was at residency (spread extra thin), and entering thesis semester. But I was intrigued. I looked up the book. I knew I liked the author; it was the right length. I pitched the review to Shelf Awareness, who accepted, making it worth my time in that (monetary) sense. So I said yes, send me that book.

And it was not only a wonderful book, as I’ve written, but turned out to be uncannily well-suited to my studies this semester – in other words, it serves all these functions for me: a review for the blog (as requested by a pleasant, not pushy, publicist), a review for the Shelf, and a nice tie into my schoolwork.

Adrian’s memoir features photographs – described, not included – which is also something I’m doing in my thesis. (My dear friend Delaney used photographs in her thesis last semester – included them, as in Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know For Sure – and taught on “art and artifacts” for her graduate seminar.) She studies a difficult-to-pin-down mother figure, which was the original plan for my thesis – I’ve given up on that for now, but it’s still in the back of my head. Finally and best of all, she uses that strange but quite successful structure, the glossary, an alphabetically organized series of fragments. These entries rarely strike me as “narrative” on their own, but they definitely combine to tell the story, and in chronological order. My lightbulb realization, which seems so obvious in hindsight: these entries were not titled and then sorted; they were titled for their place, to serve the alphabetical structure.

I found this fruitful reading in several senses – and not least, it was gripping. I stayed up until 1am to finish it, which is something I’ve not done, I think, in several years. So it merited this second post and my firm endorsement.

Thank you, Kim Adrian, and thanks to her fine publicist, Carrie Adams, for doing the work of connecting the right reader with the right book.

2 Responses

  1. ​This is a great story to go with a cogent thoughtful review; I enjoyed it all.

    Carrie Adams hosts a “literary salon series” in Chicago’s chic & historic Ukrainian Village; I want one of those in my village!

    Trivia: in your review, 5th para, you use the phrase “on the power of storytelling to restructure her experiences, perhaps to fix something.” My mind immediately went to ‘fix’ in the sense of fixing something in memory – which I think is quite accurate, about recollection and storytelling, since our memories are not strictly ‘fact’, but our constantly reconstructed & subjective interpretations reliant on a few or many recollections, and retellings. This is one of the many reasons storytelling is so central to human cognition and culture.

    In the next moment I realized you likely meant the typical meaning, to repair; but I really appreciate the double entendre you created, wittingly or not.

    • I want a literary salon series near me, too!

      What you refer to is what I choose to call a “syntax of ambiguity” (beginning with Suzanne Paola’s graduate course at Western). I did not intend this instance, not consciously. But I think a lot of happy “accidents” in our writing are instances of our unconscious working for us: results of practice, even when unintentional. I like it! (You’re right, I intended only the ‘repair’ use, but I’m pleased with what you read, too.)

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