lip lit: jessica jones, the elegant art of falling apart
A couple of years ago, my younger sister went through some severe health issues. During this time I was amazed at how life just, well, went on. Assignments still needed to be written. Bills still needed to be paid. Hair still needed to be brushed, and dresses still needed to be washed. People often say to me that they wouldn’t have gotten through it. The truth is is this: I’m no stronger than anyone else. I didn’t handle the trauma with any more grace than anyone else would have in the situation. The fact about tragedy is that you get through it simply because you have to. This is what Jessica Jones explores in her memoir The Elegant Art of Falling Apart.
After being ‘asked to leave’ her high school, Jones left Australia for London. There, she spent the better chunk of her twenties and thirties drinking, taking drugs, and dating men who you wouldn’t exactly call a catch. But when she reached her forties, things were suddenly sliding into place. She was sober. She was a successful freelancer. She was finally in a loving, stable (albeit long-distance) relationship. And then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jones finds out exactly what I did: her life didn’t stop. She still needed to figure out finances. Her laundry still needed to be done. She discovered that ‘cancer’ isn’t a magical word or excuse: she still needed to cut through layer upon layer of red tape. She still had to work at her relationship, and deal with the fact that it may be falling apart.
The Elegant Art of Falling Apart is written with humour, grace and above all – honesty. Jones isn’t afraid to speak about her selfish moments, or the ugliness of treatment, or the times she exploits the disease to get what she wants (and I think the latter is completely deserving). She doesn’t put herself up on a pedestal to be worshipped, or felt sorry for. She doesn’t seem to want people to coo to her, ‘Oh, daring, you’re so brave.’ Jones’s pragmatism, grace and occasional meltdown is what sets this book apart from others in a similar-vein: she doesn’t command your sympathy, she earns it — and this is what true elegance is all about.
Jones is the editor of blog Chemo Chic, targeted towards women who are battling with the disease – parts of the novel originally appeared on the blog, which can be viewed here.