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I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
Cover of I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
A Novel
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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST, VOGUE, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, NPR, ESQUIRE, AND KIRKUS

“There’s some kind of genius sorcery in this novel. It’s startlingly original, hilarious and harrowing by turns, finally transcendent. Watkins writes like an avenging angel. It's thrilling and terrifying to stand in her wake.” —Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather

 
A darkly funny, soul-rending novel of love in an epoch of collapse—one woman’s furious revisiting of family, marriage, work, sex, and motherhood.
Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. Her temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends mutates into an extended romp away from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the past. Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose self-destruction still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark gutters with every passing year. She can’t go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, at last she begins to make herself at home in the world.
Bold, tender, and often hilarious, I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness reaffirms Watkins as one of the signal writers of our time.
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST, VOGUE, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, NPR, ESQUIRE, AND KIRKUS

“There’s some kind of genius sorcery in this novel. It’s startlingly original, hilarious and harrowing by turns, finally transcendent. Watkins writes like an avenging angel. It's thrilling and terrifying to stand in her wake.” —Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather

 
A darkly funny, soul-rending novel of love in an epoch of collapse—one woman’s furious revisiting of family, marriage, work, sex, and motherhood.
Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. Her temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends mutates into an extended romp away from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the past. Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose self-destruction still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark gutters with every passing year. She can’t go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, at last she begins to make herself at home in the world.
Bold, tender, and often hilarious, I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness reaffirms Watkins as one of the signal writers of our time.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover

    I've tried to tell this story a bunch of times. This will be my last try, here in my garden with Moana, Lucky, Abigail and Boomerang, each naked except for Boomerang, who is cinched into a blue plastic saddle. The "garden" hardly merits the word by the standards of the house-proud resource-hoarding whites I must count myself among. My garden is mostly rock and dirt, wild, needless as Moana with so many sticks in her hair. Lucky and Abigail are Netflix properties. They have no sticks in their hair, for my daughter gave them butch haircuts last time she was here.

    The story starts at some point in my daughter's first year, the point perhaps at which I became aware of my inability to feel any feelings beyond those set to music by the Walt Disney Company. I'd banned Disney, its toxic messages and bankrupt values, forbid it my child long before conceiving her. Yet there I was listening to the Moana soundtrack a dozen times a day and digging it, screening the film as often as my infant's budding synapses could bear. No other text moved me as much, with the exception perhaps of Charlotte's Web, particularly the chapter called "Escape," in which Wilbur briefly breaks out of his pen and the Goose, soon to be yoked unmerrily to her eggs, urges him yonder.

    . . . the woods, the woods! They'll never-never-never catch you in the woods!

    Or maybe it starts before then. Like I said, I've tried to tell it a bunch of times. Each try takes me further from whatever it is I'm after. I finish on an alien shore with a raft of needs, reminded once again that books heal people all the time, just not usually the people who write them. I promise to need nothing from this last try. It's only a yarn for the dolls.

    It starts with my husband, Theo. (I've disguised his name because he innocent.)

    It starts with Theo in a waiting room reading over my shoulder.

    1. Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things.

    a.  As much as I ever did.

    b.  Not quite as much now.

    c.  Not so much now.

    d.  Not at all.

    2. I have looked forward with enjoyment to things.

    a.  As much as I ever did.

    b.  Not quite as much now.

    c.  Not so much now.

    d.  Not at all.

    "That's kind of evasive," Theo says. "'As much as I ever did.'"

    "Do you think I'm being dishonest?"

    "No, but . . ."

    "But what, Theo?"

    The baby squawks. I rock the car seat with my foot.

    "I'm just saying a diagnostic like this shouldn't be multiple choice," Theo says. "It should be short answer. Or essay. Don't you think?"

    "a. As much as I ever did."

    Ten-Item Edinburgh Post-Natal Depression Scale

    1.  Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things.

    We tried to find you a nickname in utero but nothing fit so well as the ones we had for your father's scrotum and penis, your brothers Krang and Wangston Hughes.

    An app dinged weekly with developmental progress and fruit analogies. Some weeks I wrote my own.

    This week your baby is the size of a genetically modified micropeach, which itself is about the size of a red globe grape. Your baby's earholes are migrating this week. Your baby can hear you and may already be disappointed by what it hears.

    This week your baby is the size of a medjool date dropped from the palm and left to soften in the dust. Your baby is now developing reflexes like lashing out and...

About the Author-
  • Claire Vaye Watkins is the author of the short story collection Battleborn and the novel Gold Fame Citrus. She has received the Story Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree, Watkins is a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and lives in Twentynine Palms, California.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 2, 2021
    In this vivid if overstuffed outing from Watkins (Gold Fame Citrus), a writer named Claire Vaye Watkins returns to her hometown of Reno for a reading. The trip is meant as a brief respite for Claire from her husband and daughter, but it becomes a monthslong stay as she grapples with memories of those who are gone. Her late father, Paul, a member of the Manson Family, was described by her mother, the late Martha, as the cult’s “number one procurer of young girls.” Martha, meanwhile, died when Claire was in her 20s, either by an accidental opiate overdose or by suicide. She also remembers an ex-boyfriend who died in a car crash. And as Watkins catalogs her “maternal ambivalence” and “wifely rage,” she breaks the rules of her open marriage by falling in love with an extramarital partner. While Claire’s memories provide the narrative thrust, nearly a third is spent on her family’s history, including letters from Martha to her cousin from 1968 through the ’70s (“I think I’m mentally ill. Love is a fucking hassle”), and the material doesn’t quite illuminate Claire’s story or develop the plot. What makes this work is Claire’s raw sense of pain on the page, and the evenhanded honesty with which Watkins portrays her actions. Thought Watkins overreaches, her talent is abundant. Agent: Nicole Aragi. Aragi, Inc.

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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
A Novel
Claire Vaye Watkins
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