Can You Tolerate This?
Like some sort of contrast medium, Ashleigh Young’s prose penetrates the fissures and fine vessels of her experiences so that when the reader turns their attention to her texts, subtleties and depths and dimensions hitherto unsuspected yet somehow deeply familiar are revealed and remain imprinted upon memory. The medium flows particularly into areas of ordinary damage (her personal sadness, discomfort, awkwardness, anxiety) and resolves here into twenty-one personal essays which lucidly yet with an almost tender subtlety picture the shared concerns (time, family, memory, the body, love, loss) with which we must constantly contend if we are to be aware of something we take to be ourselves. There is a certain lightness to Young’s touch, and often a concomitant humour, that allows her to describe and circumnavigate the heavy without snagging herself or us upon it, to treat delicately with subjects about which most writing is clumsy through its attempts to be profound. The essays that I remember most are those that acknowledge the dimensions of ambivalence that exist around their subject: the tangle of love and irritation around a childhood dog, her meditations on the hair on her lip, or her growing dislike for Katherine Mansfield in the midst of general adulation during her tenure at the Birthplace in Tinakori Road. The best pieces are those in which Young knows she does not need more than a few pages to be succinct, insightful and good company.
Can You Tolerate This? is a collection of twenty-one personal essays by Ashleigh Young.
In this spirited and singular book, Young roams freely from preoccupation to preoccupation - Hamilton's 90s music scene, family histories, a boy with a rare skeletal disease, a stone-collecting French postman, a desire for impossible physical transformation - trying to find some measure of clarity amid uncertainty. How to bear each moment of experience: the inconsequential as much as the shattering? Her search takes us through poignant, funny and raw territories.
Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction Finalist - Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2017.
2017 Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction.
'This is a brave, sometimes confronting, always intriguing, often compelling and distinctly unusual book. The essays are consistently entertaining in a way that is rare in literary nonfiction of any kind. The voice is one which readers will fall in love with.' -Martin Edmond
'Some of Ashleigh Young's personal essays feel to me like beautifully told short stories - they just happen to be true, or true-ish.' -Bill Manhire
Ashleigh Young works as an editor in Wellington and teaches creative science writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her poetry and essays have been widely published in print and online journals, including Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction, Five Dials (UK) and The Griffith Review (Australia). Can You Tolerate This? is her second book; her first was the poetry collection Magnificent Moon (VUP, 2012). She gained an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2009, winning the Adam Prize. She blogs at eyelashroaming.com.