Recently, I read Maggie O’Farrell’s book I am I am I am, wherein she writes seventeen different essays, all describing ways she has nearly died. Each essay is named for a part of the body and, in parenthesis, the year the event that nearly killed her occurred. Certain body parts are used more than once (“Lungs,” for example, since there are three occasions when O’Farrell nearly drowned). After reading, I was stuck on the idea that she broke her body up into pieces in order to tell a complete story, that some parts needed to be touched twice, that her whole form was fragmented, and so her book, then, is a reflection of this breaking up. The way O’Farrell moves her body through the world, for better or worse, is represented on the page in pieces, her body chopped up like memories, in order to put forth a cohesive, yet still broken, whole. We call the paragraphs between the beginning and the end of an essay, “body paragraphs,” we call a full text a “body of work,” and Farrell, whose body, in this book, is her work, reminds me of the ways women’s bodies are objectified, sometimes shrunk down, self-conscious, other times magnified, and how the body, like a book told in pieces, reminds us that the whole is the sum of its parts.
Reilly, A. S. (2022). Reading the gaps: On women's nonfiction and page space. Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, 9(1). https://www.assayjournal.com/amie-souza-reilly-reading-the-gaps-on-womenrsquos-nonfiction-and-page-space-assay-81.html
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