Without Senators in Sight, Christine Blasey Ford Retells Her Story

ONE WAY BACK: A Memoir, by Christine Blasey Ford

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter.”

It sounded like a piece of refrigerator poetry suddenly ringing out in the wood-paneled Hart Senate Office Building: Christine Blasey Ford’s distinctive phrase describing her memory of being assaulted at 15 by Brett Kavanaugh, two years older, while his friend watched. (Kavanaugh, seeking confirmation to the Supreme Court, less poetically but “categorically and unequivocally” denied he had done any such thing, brandishing old calendars as an alibi.)

Published more than five years after her 2018 congressional testimony, Blasey Ford’s new memoir, “One Way Back,” is an important entry into the public record — a lucid if belated retort to Senator Chuck Grassley’s 414-page, maddening memo on the investigation — but a prosaic one. A Big Book like this has become the final step in the dizzying if wearily familiar passage through the American media wringer: once called a “spin cycle,” now more like a clown car going through the wash tunnel.

Blasey Ford is a research psychologist, professor and devotee of surfing, who leans heavily on the sport as a metaphor for her ordeal. “You made me paddle out,” she tells her lawyers at one point, when they are advising her not to testify after weeks of preparation. “And you never, ever paddle back in once you’re out there. You catch the wave. You wipe out if you have to.”

She explains the difference between a beach break (“a quick, rough ride”) and a point break (“slow, unfurling”), and offers deep thoughts on kelp, the marine organism that can be both nuisance and nurturer to humans in the swells. (“The same thing that can move you back can also move you forward. I’d just have to hope for high tide.”) Coloring the underside of her hair blue to mark summer vacations from her teaching job, Blasey Ford even unwittingly presaged mermaidcore.

“One Way Back” — that is, to some sort of shore — is a story of swimming away from the Eastern power establishment and then being sucked inexorably anew into its undertow. Living in country-clubbish suburban Washington, D.C., but lacking college degrees, Blasey Ford’s parents vowed to give their three children premium educations.

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