IF MY BOOK: High Priestess of the Apocalypse, Christy Tending


Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Christy Tending writes about High Priestess of the Apocalypse, her new memoir out now from ELJ Editions.

If High Priestess of the Apocalypse were a weapon, it would be a Molotov cocktail. An incendiary and destructive force, but old school. Small, handheld. Something homemade, but nothing you should Google.

If High Priestess of the Apocalypse were a dessert, it would be strawberry shortcake in July. The whipped cream is scented with vanilla, elevated to soft crescendos with nothing but air and time spent in the stand mixer. The strawberries are thickly sliced, macerated with the tiniest sprinkle of sugar and their juices tell the tale of endless hours of summer sunshine. The biscuits are from a store-bought mix. The book was too busy sitting in the breeze of a screened-in porch to make them from scratch.

If High Priestess of the Apocalypse were a heartbeat, it would be something to keep an eye on. One that murmured—not like a lover, but like a threat. It would be a congenital matter, one that comes from playing the odds of being human. The little hiccup tells you that you could be dead, but that instead you are wickedly alive against the odds.

If High Priestess of the Apocalypse were a season, it would be the one where you keep telling yourself that you’ll get to it when things finally settle down, and then, for once, they actually do. And you find yourself with nothing but time and a cup of coffee and a pile of crisp leaves to stomp through as the light hoists itself over the horizon. It is the season that asks and the season that answers.

If High Priestess of the Apocalypse were a tree, it would be one of those giant sequoias you can drive a car through. A way to convince the folks back home of the scale of things. Not just their enormity, but their resilience. You can drive a car through the gaping heart of the book and it will remain a book, just like the tree remains a tree.

If High Priestess of the Apocalypse were a child, it would be the child for whom being sent to her room by herself was a reward and not a punishment. A child that easily made friends with books and their possibilities. The one who longed to try Turkish Delight (and who was inevitably disappointed) and the one who definitely could have survived the island in Hatchet. If my book were a child, it would have pigtails and wear overalls and not come home until supper.

If High Priestess of the Apocalypse were one of my son’s drawings, it would be one from his Firetruck Period: a line drawing of a ladder truck. Wheels and windshield and ladder and all the little dials and buttons on the side of the truck, hose curled neatly against its red exterior. My son would bring these to me on sick days or parent-teacher conference days. Drawing them over and over, handing them to me like amulets of protection. This one is just in case. This one is going to help.

If High Priestess of the Apocalypse were a bag, it would be a bottomless tote, not unlike Mary Poppins carpet bag. The outside would be hand-screen printed with some cause or event: a bookfair or a union drive. Did you need a skein of yarn or a couple of Advil? I’m sure I’ve got some in here somewhere. How about a chocolate eclair or the song your mother used to sing you to sleep? I sweep my hand along the bottom, up to my armpit in ephemera and place it softly in the palm of your hand. In the side pockets of the tote are the knowledge that you are doing your best and that the thing you hold onto wasn’t your fault.

Christy Tending (she/they) is the author of High Priestess of the Apocalypse (ELJ Editions). Their work has been published in Longreads, The Rumpus, and Electric Literature, and received a notable mention in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023. You can learn more about their work at www.christytending.com or follow Christy on Twitter at @christytending.

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