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Raw Edges

A Memoir

Phyllis Barber

Publication Year: 2009

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. iii-vii


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pp. ix

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pp. 1-3

The folded-tissue ballerinas hang suspended from the mobile tacked to the ceiling above my desk. The dancers twirl, on impulse it seems, but they’re being put into action by currents of heat from the fireplace. It’s cold outside. They seem to be urging me to action. Put a word on the computer screen. Two words. Three. You need to finish your book. They...

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Blues in the Attic

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pp. 5-17

Even though the summer of 2002 proved a major turning point of my life, there was that nadir, subzero, bottom-out point: a day, a night, and the next morning. I’ll never forget it. I wish I would have remembered about the refiner’s fire making gold from dross. Or about the heroine journeying through the labyrinth. But I didn’t. In the middle of that fire, I was no...

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Two-Wheeled Getaway Car

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pp. 18-34

A bicycle had been my getaway car ever since I was a five-year-old in southern Nevada. I’ll never forget the morning my father said to come outside, he had a surprise for me. His eyes and the glass on his rimless eyeglasses sparkled as if they were party lights. He opened the front door, took my hand, and walked with me down the front concrete stairs painted red....

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For Time and All Eternity

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pp. 35-53

In the spring of 1963 when I was a sophomore at Brigham Young University, something happened in a chemistry classroom built like a pit. The real chemistry happened when I walked through the door and down the stairs, swinging my purse on its long strap. I was only half aware I’d outgrown my gawky high school body and that I could register an effect when I ran my...

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Bidden or Not

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pp. 54-69

God, Goddess, Yahweh, Jesus Christ, Allah, Krishna, the Sun, the Moon, the Virgin of Guadalupe. And God’s messengers: Joseph Smith, Buddha, the Pope, Mohammed, Confucius, Lao-Tse, St. Francis and his birds, Mother Teresa, Mary Baker Eddy, the Mystics . . . Somebody. Something. Help me. Bidden or not, God, by whatever name, was on the heels of each of my...

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Homeward to Zion

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pp. 70-82

With a new baby on the way, we couldn’t stay in the gardener’s cottage any longer. We drove away with our belongings. We left behind the estate on Old Trace Road, with its tall oak trees and rows of eucalyptus that dropped silver leaves and brown seed pods everywhere, the quaint rose garden surrounded by a picket fence and crisscrossed with brick paths, the secretarial...

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Unpredictable Body

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pp. 83-95

A snapping turtle. A snake’s tongue. Something that acts with speed and withdraws in a flash. Stinging, biting. A whip that strikes hard and fast, just like the leather belt unbuckled and yanked out of the loops on my father’s slacks on the very few occasions that he was exceedingly angry. As soon as it hit the mark, it was gone. But my flesh remembered. What else was fast like that—something...

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In the Attic with St. Francis

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pp. 96-101

After a night of turning the bedsheets into a choppy sea while playing more torture games in my head, I woke to the day of summer solstice— June 20, 2002. A clear day. A stunningly bright day. I was still an emotional prisoner in the infamous attic in Denver, but when I looked out at the tops of the trees from my third-story perch, they seemed to be singing...

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Precarious Edge of Life

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pp. 102-114

I was pregnant again and, after the fact, made an appointment with my ob-gyn to ask him if it was all right to have another baby. He said because we’d had a normal child, it would be safe to try again. Then, after a few more questions, he realized I was already pregnant. “Why did you come and ask me if it’s all right?” he asked, exasperated...

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Meaning of Goodness

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pp. 115-133

I carried Brad everywhere in a Snugli, a secondary womb of yellow corduroy attached by soft straps to my shoulders. I couldn’t stop kissing the top of his head and patting his white-blonde hair. He was always with me, even at the kitchen sink paring potatoes. He was a tiny, elflike, wispy baby, almost too thin. Maybe my body had been too undernourished, too busy,...

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Iron Maiden Cracks

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pp. 134-146

My husband touched the small of my back. He caressed my hips while I tried to cling to the world of sleep. Suddenly I pulled myself to the edge of the bed. We’d been married for thirteen years, and I was crawling away from him, inching away, a bit at a time. Love. What was love? And sex, what was that? It meant too many things. It could be a place for abandon and recklessness and giving up your mind....

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Doves Descending

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pp. 147-157

David didn’t register any seismic shock when I told him about the gardener. He sat at his desk, surrounded by stacks of files he’d made for every idea and theory that came to him at 4:00 a.m. I felt as if I were a young girl coming to Daddy to tell him she’d proved something, that she was a Big Girl now, that she wasn’t a scaredy-cat. I sat in the chair next to his desk...

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In the Beginning

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pp. 158-167

When you see a psychiatrist, your conversations remind you of things, of those tied boxes that have been sitting in your personal garage, unorganized and unnoticed, for too many years. You start thinking about your beginnings, those things that shaped you, those moments commemorated in those old white-bordered snapshots that made you believe you were a certain way: the shyness in the photograph with...

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Two Thousand Kisses Deep

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pp. 168-183

High above the hood of our car, a hawk swirled with the current. David leaned forward, his eyes skyward as I oohed and ahhed over the marvel of that bird of prey floating on the invisible ridges of thin Colorado air. It understood the physics of ether and the avoidance of gravity. Though I didn’t want to leave our home in Salt Lake City, David, Brad...

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Filling the Void

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pp. 184-195

I needed someone. After all, I’d lived with three sons and a husband for thirty years. My nest wasn’t just empty. It had been obliterated. I met him in July of 1994. After a separation of nine months, David had picked me up from the airport after I’d taught for a semester at the University of Missouri as a visiting writer and after I’d finished my two-week stint...

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Human Head is a Cube

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pp. 196-214

At the end of July in 2002, my good friend from Salt Lake City, K. C. Muscolino, telephoned me in my Denver attic. Because she knew I wasn’t faring so well, she convinced me to attend a workshop with her in Helper, Utah. The class would be taught by Paul and Sylvia Davis, well-known Utah painters and sculptors. We’d be studying the human head. Drawing....

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pp. 215-237

I found wedges for leveraging my way out of the marriage to David. The first was Ivan the beautiful, Ivan the handsome, Ivan the tri-colored Australian shepherd. When my friend Susan asked me to dog-sit for the weekend when I still lived at the condo on Dahlia, my first home in Denver after leaving the mountains and my family behind, I fell in love....

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Nesting Doll

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pp. 238-250

Brad gave up drumming for Sofa, the brothers’ band, and went off to Arizona to work with premiere golf course designers at the Anthem project north of Phoenix. He’d been offered scholarships at top-notch schools, but decided to make it on his own without college. Jeremy and Chris were both living in my basement, trying to make Denver connections for their band....

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Parting the Waters

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pp. 251-264

My attic, my room at the top, my writer’s garret—I sat at my desk on another sweltering morning in the month of August 2002. The heat was already a blanket smothering anything I might want to put on paper as well as my desire to write it. It’s hogwash to scratch ink or type words on paper and think it matters. I slammed my journal shut and ignored Mr. Peeps, my new canary, who was...

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pp. 265

In 2005, David Barber read this manuscript in its entirety. I asked him to fix any dialogue or situation that was off the mark, as I wanted him to feel all right about the-book-with-his-name-in-it going out into the world. His telephone response from his house in Denver to mine in Salt Lake City: “When I started reading this I thought maybe I should write my own book. This is your story, not especially mine. But, no one will ever fully...

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pp. 267-268

Because I was reticent to delve into this story, this book began as fiction about two women biking across the United States. It has seen many incarnations in the ten years of its making—a novel, a novoir (my concoction), and finally, because that is what it has become, a memoir. I wish to thank David Barber, who, even though we are divorced, has..

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780874178081
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874178814

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2009