Lissa McLaughlin: Quit


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Taut lines — fragments from a journal? a report on hospice work? — seem to keep moving out of our grasp while at the same time bringing us closer to their subject, the elusive experience of the dying and their nurses.

A grief worker at a hospice ponders how ordinary human failings: jealousy, fear, rigidity, the hunger of loneliness can overwhelm rewarding work. To the point of envying the dead for leaving it all behind. And yet how anything, even a lousy sandwich, can recall us to the pleasures of this world.

“Writing Quit took some athleticism,” the author says, “Fleeing the job I loved I needed to move language,and fast. First raw discharge, then a kind of essay (quoting Buddhist texts; clinical reports; histories of Bedlam, and research into the prevalence of personality disorders in business executives), Quitalternately tensed up and softened. Footnotes disappeared. Humor tried to enter. Lines reincarnated. Ultimately, the distinctions between patient and healer, worker and boss folded up under the recognition that the dying remind us of ourselves. If we can just let life digest us, we might finally taste joy.”

Lissa McLaughlin lives in Madison, Wisconsin and works as a clinical art therapist with autistic children. Beside grief counseling, she has also taught college fiction writing, Second Grade, and much else. Her career continues to be, if not meteoric, metamorphic.

She has written children’s books, prose poems, and story collections, of which these are available from Burning Deck:
Approached by Fur (prose poems, 1976)
Seeing the Multitudes Delayed (stories, 1979)
Troubled by His Complexion (stories, 1988)

“The voice is ironical, austerely beautiful and strong. To be reread.”
— Reality Studios on Seeing the Multitudes Delayed

“It almost seems she not so much composes her stories, but like a spirit medium, discovers them from another place. It’s kind of shadowy and distracted, almost just being formed as the reader enters them. This is a quality that makes writing enchanted.”
— Russell Edson on Troubled by His Complexion