Wreck : A Very Anxious Memoir
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96 pages

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Kelley Jo Burke embarks on a wild journey to understand many things, including the part where her grandfather sort of murdered her grandmother. Returning to a house filled with her first memories of childhood, she begins to explore the complex origins of her own anxiety. Along the way, she reflects on alienation and immigration, mental health and generational trauma, and the nature of memory itself. A memoir filled with raw honesty, comedy, tragedy and grace.



Publié par
Date de parution 18 mai 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781989274453
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 14 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0055€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Copyright © 2021 Kelley Jo Burke
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher or by licensed agreement with Access: The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (contact accesscopyright.ca).
Editor: Susan Musgrave
Cover art: Tania Wolk
Book and cover design: Tania Wolk, Third Wolf Studio
Printed and bound in Canada at Friesens, Altona, MB
The publisher gratefully acknowledges the support of Creative Saskatchewan, the Canada Council for the Arts and SK Arts.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Title: Wreck : a very anxious memoir / Kelley Jo Burke.
Names: Burke, Kelley Jo, author.
Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 20210155647 | Canadiana (ebook) 20210155884 |
ISBN 9781989274446 (softcover) | ISBN 9781989274453 (PDF)
Subjects: LCSH: Burke, Kelley Jo. | CSH: Dramatists, Canadian (English)—Biography. |
CSH: Authors, Canadian (English)—Biography. |
LCSH: Anxiety—Patients—Canada—Biography. |
LCGFT: Autobiographies.
Classification: LCC PS8603.U73755 Z46 2021 | DDC C812/.54—dc23
Box 33128 Cathedral PO
Regina, SK S4T 7X2

For Eric, always.
And for Teen, of course

The author is deeply grateful for the assistance of the Saskatchewan Arts Board.
Thanks also to Radiant Press, and in particular, to developmental editor Susan Musgrave, for her invaluable feedback.


About the Author
The Whales 1996
I Was Born … 1961
Getting In 2017
What I Mean When I Say At the Lighthouse 2020
The Chair 1996
Eric … and Counting 2017
Four Other Things I Mean When I Say At the Lighthouse
Seed 1969
Leaving America 2017
The Money 1996
The Burkes 2018
Lunch, Interrupted 1996
“Is he dead yet?”— An Extremely Long Footnote on the Subject of Memory (with a horse) 2018
The Addams 2020
The Rat 2018
Lunch, Continued (Honk) 1996
Mine 2018
Asking 1996
Working on a Memoir 2018
Asking 2 1996
Wreck 2018
Asking 3 1996
Westminster, Stupid 2018
At the Lighthouse

About the Author
You know those memoirs that people write after they’ve chatted everything over with those concerned, and made sure everybody’s good with it and they just want the writer to feel free to speak their whole truth?
This is not that.
Wish it was. I have a freakish memory, which starts when I was nine months old. It is scattered and tattered, but there’s lots of it; my bio-hard drive runneth over. I long to dump my whole truth out in the world, make it a thing that exists, has weight and veracity. I think I`d run better.
But my family doesn’t have those chats. We have chats where I run memory past them and get told it is shit I just made up. Which kind of makes the floor go out from under my feet. Then I hyperventilate. Get the tingly feeling around my lips, the left chest squeeze. Realize that this isn’t a panic attack, but the big one, and I am finally, genuinely dying.
So. Kind of want to avoid that conversation.
Also, there is a real possibility that some of this is … shit I just made up.
I am a liar. A good one. Most of my family is. We pride ourselves on it. We are bullshitters. Grifters. Cons. Tale-tellers. Guilders of lilies—and punch-lines. Editors of inconvenient truths. Omitters of inconvenient details.Because, we like to tell ourselves, we can; we are smarter than every chump we hustle.
We have whoppers for all occasions: The speeding ticket. The border tariff. The rule that’s for other people. Serves them right for being a mark. Serves them right for charging too much. One born every minute and base is the slave that pays.
That could be you, gentle reader.
When I was in college, I lived at home, and did not go to the University of Manitoba which was basically next door and where my father taught — but to the smaller University of Winnipeg, downtown — where I was less likely to be greeted as Professor Burke’s daughter — as in “You’re Jim Burke’s girl? But he’s such a nice man?”
I took the family car to school whenever I could get it — it was more than an hour by bus. I parked in the only free space on campus — the faculty lot. There were always a few empty spots. I learned which profs were on sabbatical, rode their bikes, had DUI-ed again and were being driven in by their generally younger second wives (former grad students — it was the 80’s). Parking anywhere but the faculty lot was difficult and very expensive downtown, and I was practically staff — I was an editor for the school paper. I was far more in the right than the other people who shouldn’t be parking there.
The university didn’t see it that way. They hired students to patrol the lot. I learned this halfway up the escalator. A handsome young Kenyan I think, maybe Ghanaian, caught me and told me I was in a professor’s spot. My lie was instantaneous and gorgeous:
“I know I am. (Full commanding settler magnificent enunciation affronted voice) I’m Professor Burke. Would you like to come with me to my office, and have that confirmed?”
He looked doubtful for a moment, as well he should have, and studied my very young, pigtail-framed face. But the smile that followed was stunning. “I have come to this country, and am trying to learn how to know good from bad all over again. I have to believe that someone who looks so sweet and innocent could not lie…so I will believe you now.”
Either he did believe me, and my place in Hell is guaranteed, rock solid, unavoidable, or he knew I was lying, and, if so, well-played sir, well-played.
I can’t remember what I said next because it is covered in sticky shame and will not load into recall. I do remember starting my coast up the escalator, exultant, fighting the impulse to queen-wave to the masses. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my family about my stone-cold, ball-bearing, magnificently successful lie. Anticipating their pride in my performance was coursing through my veins like China White.
The man’s smile. He had crossed a universe really, made a trip that a girl from the right end of town could not begin to fathom, and come to this cold, utterly alien place, and gotten … my lie. And he turned it into a moment to learn trust again.
Stepping off the escalator, I knew two things:
1) Good people did not do what I had done, and despite the family habit, I still wanted to think of myself as a good person.
2) I had a problem.
Thank god I come from a long line of drunks. On both sides — not my parents, but trust me, there’s sots a plenty sleeping it off on the family tree. Addiction is who we are and how we expect the world to be, and if addiction be not now, yet it will come, and with it comes the syntax of addiction, all ready to coin the experience and dictate the response, i.e. I had a problem . For addicts, be they drunks, junkies, chimneys, starvers, bingers, lardasses, fuck-it-if-it-breathers or in my case, compulsive liars, having a problem goes two ways: cold turkey or a slow road to the abyss (been there, seen that, did not want the t-shirt). So I told that turkey to strip down and jump in the freezer. In short, I quit lying. Completely.
Well. Almost completely.
So, I’m a compulsive liar. Who wants tell her truth. And has a huge problem telling her truth. Because I’ll be called a liar.
At this point, I assume your temptation is to bail. 1
I get it. I’m with you.
You know how ex-smokers are the most virulent non-smokers? Well, I’m an ex-liar, and that makes me the asshole stomping around, sniffing the air, screeching “Is someone lying in here? This is a non-lying house. I catch one of you lighting up a lie, and I’m gonna make you eat an entire lie-tray worth of lie-butts!”
The hardest hardcore truth you’re going to get is from a recovering liar. There may not be much of it, but what there is, is choice.
So that’s something.

1 . Particularly considering this is the first of many footnotes you will encounter in this book. It is sort of a tic with me. I have a lot of tics and this is far from the most annoying.

The Whales 1996
I stumble over the rocks. Tide’s out. Something I should have known, would have known if this were still home. I can hear the lash and rustle of the water much farther away than I’d hoped. And it is so dark.
Be careful, honey.
“Ssssh, Teen. I have to pay attention,” I tell my dead grandmother, who has taken to murmuring in my left ear.
The Nubble lighthouse sits across the narrow strait, flood-lit for the tourists. It looks like a movie star ready for its close-up. The shape is right, the keeper’s place the platonic ideal of a house with its colonial door and shutter-bracketed windows, but the new floods make it a garish hologram of itself. “Hi. I’m not a lighthouse, but I play one on TV …”
Only the light proper, a white cylinder capped with a black bowler is itself still. Plain. Sturdy as a Greek column. Red eye held by the cap blinking in soft, firm Ons and Offs. As trustworthy as m

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