The Crying Book isn’t sad. This New York Times Bestseller explores tears in a very original way; the author doesn’t follow a linear path, but reflects on crying and its origins in small, isolated, almost stanzaic paragraphs. This book is a historical, philosophical, existential probe into who, what, how, and why humans (and animals) cry. Heather Christle draws from historical and personal resources in order to weave together an intimate and educational book.
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One of the beautiful and poetic ideas the author lands on in the book is that tears don’t necessarily fall. Or they do, and the words tears and fall always have this marriage of sorts, she insists. She goes on to talk about babies, (she’s pregnant,) and that for babies, to fall is primal, natural; she quotes Homer, who says it’s natural for us as babies to fall “from the knees of our mother.” She goes on to state: “On the moon, where the astronaut Alan Shepherd cried, gravity exerts one-sixth of the force it does on earth. Tears fall, but more slowly, like snow.” She goes on to state that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong didn’t cry, or at least Armstrong’s tears did not fall. “Back in the Lunar Module, Aldrin photographed Armstrong with wet eyes. Would tears have dropped had they been here on Earth?”
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There are several passages dedicated to the elephant, for the elephant is a grieving beast, known to mourn for days to months to over a lifetime if a child or family member has passed. Christle writes specifically about a hunter who shoots an elephant specifically to make the animal suffer, but the elephant withstands the cruel hunter’s torture and only sheds a few tears the second before he finally does pass away. In this case, it appears the animal only cried out of physical pain. We humans are a cruel race, but Christle mentions there are moths, too, “Mabre Elephantophila”, who feed on Elephant tears by scratching at their eyes—humans aren’t the only ones to make Elephants cry.
Other interesting facts: did you know Shirley Temple could cry on cue? As long as it was before lunch. One director did not know any of this and in order to make her cry told Shirley her mother had been kidnapped. Needless to say, he got a big finger-wagging from Shirley’s mother after learning of his deception. As for Shirley’s crying rule, she said, “crying is too hard after lunch.”
Christle makes it clear that there are perils to a white woman crying on and on. To be serious for a moment, the term “White Tears” means tears “which are shed by a white person who has been made suddenly aware of systemic racism, or her own implication within white supremacy. They can be a form of defense against an imagined aggression, a way of shutting down a conversation…” Christle goes on to say that these kinds of tears are dangerous. “I do not want to redeem those tears. I want to read them for what they are and I want to read beyond them.”
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On a somewhat ridiculous note, did you know there are hotels in Japan where you can rent rooms just to cry? Did you also know, if you have the money, you can pay men to wipe away your tears? Some churches have crying rooms. There is also something called lachryphagy, which is the act of drinking tears, though I think that’s reserved for butterflies, moths, etc.
Another fact from the book: men and women often cry on planes. A survey found that 41 percent of men hide it by literally covering their face with a blanket while women pretend they have something in their eye.
The Book of Crying is full and ripe with rare facts but also filled with beautiful stories about the author’s personal journey through her ups and downs until she is diagnosed with cyclothymia, a lesser form of Bipolar Disorder. Again, she’s also pregnant throughout and gives birth towards the middle of the book. A lot is going on! The book is a tapestry of history, knowledge; it can be dark but then comes back up with funny musings over Yahoo!Answers, and sentences like, “despair makes us fall and a fall makes us laugh. Why?”
I can’t answer the question, I think it answers itself.
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