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Can You Tolerate This?

Essays

By Ashleigh Young
Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld / 6 hours 51 minutes

A dazzling - and already prizewinning - collection of essays on youth and aging, ambition and disappointment, Katherine Mansfield tourism and New Zealand punk rock, and the limitations of the body.

Youth and frailty, ambition and anxiety, the limitations of the body and the challenges of personal transformation: these are the undercurrents that animate acclaimed poet Ashleigh Young's first collection of essays. In Can You Tolerate This?--the title comes from the question chiropractors ask to test a patient's pain threshold--Young ushers us into her early years in the faraway yet familiar landscape of New Zealand: fantasizing about Paul McCartney, cheering on her older brother's fledging music career, and yearning for a larger and more creative life. As Young's perspective expands, a series of historical portraits--a boy who grew new bone wherever he was injured, an early French postman who built a stone fortress by hand, a generation of Japanese shut-ins--strike unexpected personal harmonies, as an unselfconscious childhood gives way to painful shyness in adolescence. As we watch Young fall in and out of love, undertake an intense yoga practice that masks an eating disorder, and gradually find herself through her writing, a highly particular psyche comes into view: curious, tender, and exacting in her observations of herself and the world around her.

Can You Tolerate This? presents a vivid self-portrait of an introspective yet widely curious young woman, the colorful, isolated community in which she comes of age, and the uneasy tensions--between safety and risk, love and solitude, the catharsis of grief and the ecstasy of creation--that define our lives.

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