In search of an escape from her suicidal sexually abusive parents, Diski spends her teenage years in the oblivion of heavy drug use and psychiatric wards. As an adult she finds a new haven: the boundless, blank iciness of Antarctica where everything “is colored white and filled with a singing silence.”
This blistering account interweaves the story of the author’s journey to the end of the earth, her daughter’s search for Diski’s missing mother, and Diski’s own search of her memory-hardened heart. (from Amazon)
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading Skating to Antarctica, since all I remembered about it was that it had something about travel and it was also kind of depressing. If I could remember HOW I found out about Jenny Diski’s books, I could figure out how that was all I knew about them, but since I can’t we’re in the dark together.
Anyway, it’s not as depressing as I thought it would be, although some parts are very sad. And the first chapter is a bit…intense. You know in Virginia Woolf’s books, when she starts going on about suicide? The first chapter is like that sort of intense, where you know you’re in someone else’s mind and it works pretty differently from yours. Like going into a cave with only a penlight, and there are stalactites waiting for you to knock your head into them.
Skating to Antarctica isn’t just a travel memoir; about half is travel, half is memories of other stuff. Both parts work really well together, though, since the reason that Jenny Diski is travelling to Antarctica is because of the other events in her life she writes about! So that’s good. It also helps that Jenny Diski’s writing is amazing and beautiful and scary and wonderful.
Somehow I think I’ve connected Jenny Diski and Virginia Woolf together in my mind, and, to me, Jenny Diski is a sort of Virginia Woolf 2.0. I haven’t read any of JD’s fiction books yet, but I’m wondering if I’ll like them as much as I like VW’s? (And I’m also wondering if I’ll like VW’s nonfiction stuff, since I haven’t read any of that, either.)
I really like this book. I’m not going to rave over it like a lunatic– it’s not that sort of book– but I will say that I’m glad I read it and it won’t be the last Jenny Diski book I read.
Read: February 4, 2011