book reviews

Where Did You Sleep Last Night? by Lynn Crosbie

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Where Did You Sleep Last Night, by Lynn Crosbie, Anansi Press, 2015

I wanted to do a thorough, good post about this book, but it seems that I can’t find the time to blog. Still, though it’s been a few months now since I finished Where Did You Sleep Last Night, by Lynn Crosbie, I haven’t forgotten it and I’m at least going to write a few words here because it’s stuck with me, as Lynn’s books (and photos) do.

First: Read the synopsis if you want to know what the book is about.

Second, you should know that Crosbie is a huge fan of Cobain, which makes this all the more fun. One might comment on the balls she has to write about him (there is not a trace of disrespect in this book), but I know no one better qualified: when Lynn fangirls, she fangirls hard (Michael Jackson featured in Life Is About Losing Everything so realistically that when I was working on something about the book, I had to ask if everything between her and him in the book actually happened. Malcolm McDowell, prepare yourself!). Research was done, credits are listed. But it’s also a tribute, this book, and Lynn includes an afterword that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. And utterly serious.

What I also love about Crosbie is that she’s an artist writer, by which I mean there’s an element of some other type of creativity at work here; it doesn’t seem as if she just sits at her computer and types out her books. I imagine the process more like when in Harry Potter they put their wands to their heads and glimmering, ephemeral bits of memories floated out. Except that for Lynn, it’s characters and scenes and imagination. And after that, she has to corral these things to form a cohesive story.

Both Life Is About Losing Everything and WDYSLN are like…mixed media. They’re fiction and nonfiction and fan fiction, but also dreams and fumes and sculpture and scars…with the format of a collage in a way, but with enough structure to tell a proper, whole story. You just may not be able to piece it altogether instantly.

It’s all hard to explain because I wasn’t totally sure as I read WDYSLN what was real and what wasn’t, especially in the beginning. Funnily, and I mean that literally, the novel has a page at the beginning that says, “This is a true story.” Sometimes I wondered if I had to be high to read it and get what was happening. But I know Lynn is skilled. Somehow, this book completely works. Aside from the brilliant originality of it and the wordsmithing, and even though you kind of get the impression that she might have just let it all out, however it came out, there is no way that’s true. I feel like it must have taken her ten gazillion hours to craft this book, to get it right, to make it work as a novel though it strains at the boundaries of such a construct.

The Vancouver Sun said, “Crosbie uses language like she invented it.” But I say it’s not as if she invented the language; it’s as though she’s inventing it as she goes along (the way Magneto formed steps as he walked across space in that X-Men movie). The playfulness with words and syntax and meaning is art. She writes love and grit with equal beauty. She writes as though she’s found the way to capture and translate dreams. And like dreams, Lynn wondrously breaks all the rules but leaves us with something nevertheless vivid.

I get the feeling, from having read her stuff and following her on Instagram, that Lynn has lived every second of her life. There’s so much proof of astuteness, observation, experience, thought, wringing out of events for meaning and emotion and joy. There’s not a lazy bone in her stories—every word, sentence, scene is made to work HARD, and consequently we are made to work hard. Her books are no cakewalk—they blur lines and talk about hard things and truth, even while the content sometimes reads as though you’re delirious. But if we agree to follow that to the end, if we agree that sometimes working hard to stay with someone’s creation is totally worth it, we will be wildly—and I mean this literally for this novel—and richly rewarded.

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