In Doug Coupland’s blurb to Lynn Crosbie’s Life is About Losing Everything, he comments that “it’s almost terrifying how deep this book goes, and how quickly it gets there.” The book is certainly intense, a blend of fact and fiction about a time period in the author’s life. I made the mistake of beginning it after a rather bad day, and after the first few chapters, had to stop because it was too depressing. Then again, with a title like that, what did I expect, eh?
To be fair, I think Crosbie’s book will strike a certain kind of reader as utterly beautiful, poignant and heart wrenching. It just didn’t work for me. (That’s not just because of my first, aborted attempt at reading it. I did give it another couple of tries before giving up. Full disclosure: I did not finish the book. I did try, but ultimately I decided to move on.)
The book saunters from vignette to vignette, some chapters in the form of lists, others more straightforward narrative. The story wanders, as if we had a glimpse right into the mind of the author as she thinks first of one memory and then another, and then perhaps doubles back to an earlier event, and so on. It’s not an easy read — the writing is soaked in bitterness and anger. Crosbie’s style is just sharp and biting enough to avoid being whiny, but hell, this novel cuts deep.
There’s a fine line between raw emotion and self-indulgence, and to my mind, this book crossed that line. The randomness of the vignettes, and the slapdash nature in which they were compiled added to the feeling that despite the hodgepodge of episodes, they all began to sound equally bitter. Blogger Buried in Print says that rather than the traditional beginning, middle and end narrative, Life is “all middle.” This maintains just that intensity that Crosbie is clearly going for, and is perhaps the reason other book reviews recommend dipping into Life a bit at a time rather than in one sitting.
Crosbie’s writing is tight and with a definite bite. However, the format of the book just didn’t work for me, and I ended up realizing that I simply didn’t care what other horrible, depressing slice of life was going to be revealed next.
Thank you to House of Anansi for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.