SEEKING RAPTURE: Scenes from a Life

Kathryn Harrison, Author . Random $23.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-375-50558-4

Harrison's affinity for vivisecting the soft underbelly of social mores—displayed in The Kiss, The Binding Chair, etc.—is vividly apparent in this series of autobiographical essays. Detailing aspects of a privileged girlhood lived with eccentric maternal grandparents while yearning to be with her beautiful but promiscuous mother (Harrison's parents married at 18 because Harrison's mother was pregnant; her father, the subject of The Kiss, vanished soon after), Harrison reveals bouts with eating disorders as well as an attraction to religious fervor (the rapture of the title). Raised concurrently with Christian Science and Catholicism, Harrison is fascinated by the complications wrought on the spirit by the body. She records bodily functions—e.g., vomiting, lice picking, childbirth—as avidly as she recounts the grisly mortifications of the flesh inflicted upon the saints. (In describing her mother's early death from breast cancer and her reaction to it, she illuminates the tale of St. Catherine of Siena's drinking of the cancerous pus of an enemy.) At times the prose sings, at others it merely plunks. Many of these essays are more self-revelatory than self-exploratory. The most evocative piece, the title essay, shows Harrison at her thoughtful, provocative best, mindful of the flaws and desires within everyone, while the essay on nitpicking for lice depicts an almost callous disregard for racial and class differences. Agent, Amanda Urban. (On sale May 13)

Forecast:Harrison's previous controversial works will create a ready audience for this memoir, especially among the literary-leaning boomers and well-read soccer moms for whom many of these essays have appeal. An author tour and interviews will stoke interest further.

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 107 pages - 978-0-307-76600-7
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-8129-7205-4
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