mount rainier TNBWhen I first read drafts of your book, you were still thinking of a title. Rollercoaster. “Terrible title,” you said. Dyke Aching. You sent it through Google Docs and I chatted with you. After a break, you were writing again and it was feeling good, raw. New.

Sometimes when we talk it’s like neurons synapsing – we’re going through texts, emails, voice messages, Skype, Google Docs.

“Love it. I love when Finn says ‘I’m a small little animal?’”

“Here’s a link to this John Prine song.”

“I’m drinking a beer with my melatonin.”

“I so suck at letting things go.”

photo 1(1)“What if people don’t like this book,” one of us says, on the phone.

“There might be a lot of reasons why people don’t like this book. Name a few.”

We bust out laughing. We name several.

When I first read Legs Get Led Astray, I had to email you. It hit me hard, the way resonant frequency makes a cup spill over with the right rhythmic stride, or makes a guitar string ring when the train goes by.

Your book, Women, did the same thing. It made me feel like I could write about Nora. I always felt like I shouldn’t write about Nora. She is from a small town and guards her privacy like a wolf. Also, I was embarrassed, that I was pining over the same woman for ten years. Was I broken? But then you wrote this:

Come home with me, she says three times in my ear. She is too drunk to steer her bike home, she thinks she is going to puke, she thinks I roofied her drink, so I walk her bike and she stumbles along next to me. This is the first time she has drunk more than I have. We fall asleep holding each other and wake up early, finding each other’s bodies and mouths. She traces my stomach and hip bones and underwear. What are these underwear? What do they look like? She keeps touching me as I tell her they are gray, and some kind of lace, and cheap. She says, They feel so rough like they will never come off, like even if there was a war they would still stay on. Then she says gray is her favorite color.

And I loved you for writing that. I love the way you write about this seduction; obsession. You write what is cradled in your chest, before a time when the messy, the beautiful and fucked, becomes a dream that you were in love. A memory of a dream.

Yesterday when I was hiking near Mount Rainier, my nephew and I saw a black bear eating wild blueberries. It reminded me of reading your book. The bear was close. We stood, talking quietly, our hearts pounding, until it moved further down the meadow. Until it was only a distant black spot just under the ridge, easy to miss by anyone who wasn’t looking for it. Until it was gone.

Chloe Caldwell’s novella, Women, can be preordered here.


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ERIKA KLEINMAN is a writer in Austin, Texas. She has work published or forthcoming in The Rumpus, Salon, Mutha Magazine, elephant journal, The Baltimore Review, Camroc Press Review, The Apple Valley Review and others. She enjoys Lipton tea and puzzles.

One response to “CNF 500: Review/Love Letter for Chloe Caldwell’s Women

  1. Melanie says:

    Hi Erika,

    Is the “Come home with me…” paragraph an excerpt from Women, or another one of Chloe’s works?


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