Quench Your Thirst with Salt
Zone 3 Press 2013
What’s made you who you are? It’s a straightforward enough question, one that pops up, more or less and with more or less urgency, in most of our lives. And it’s a question for which most of us have straightforward answers: our families, usually, maybe our teachers, or maybe some important personal event–the death of a loved one, the onset of a disease. Sometimes we may nod toward history: the Depression, the Vietnam War, the attack on the Twin Towers. If we grew up on the South Side of Chicago or came of age on a farm in Idaho, we might see those places as crucial to the adults we’ve become. These are the kinds of things we expect to find in memoirs, that genre that tries to makes sense of our experience, in all its vast buzzing complexity and infinitely baffling richness, and tell us the story of a life.
Not so with Nicole Walker‘s new book Quench Your Thirst with Salt (Zone 3 Press, 2013). Walker has written a memoir of sorts, but one in which she’s invited in all that buzzing and all that bafflement, with the aim not of telling the story of her life, so much as capturing the surprising nature of being alive. Walker takes this question–what makes us who we are?–and looks in places we’d never expect. She finds, for example, that she can’t fully understand how her father’s excessive drinking has shaped her unless she can also understand how water itself shapes us, how it literally is the material we are, and how the water she drank as a child in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah came to exist in a landscape that was once a desert. William Blake may see a world in a grain of sand, but Walker see a self a city’s sewage system, an element of carbon, or the struggle of salmon making their way up a concrete spillway.
Quench Your Thirst with Salt is a mash up and shake up of memoir, social history, nature writing, confession, chemistry, geology, collage, and brave speculation, all brought together by a lively wit.