Human Heartbeat Detected is a collection of essays that explores how we are wonderfully and terrifyingly human. Hitting on themes such as trauma, emotional abuse, marriage, mental illness, and grief, these essays delve into how humans are simultaneously beautiful and terrible to one another. Though regardless of how we might make each other shatter, our hearts continue beating—even when we might not want them to—and we wade through the wreckage of our lives to find ways to survive. With exquisite language and captivating storytelling, the essays in Human Heartbeat Detected face what it means to be human.
“Chelsey Clammer’s Human Heartbeat Detected pulses with energy, peril, sexuality, and fearless compassion. These innovative essays, many of them in flash form, push at the boundaries of conventional prose, while at the same time pushing toward revelation and understanding.”
—Dinty W. Moore, author of To Hell With It
The women in these essays, including Clammer herself, are “just taking it blow-by-blow, bracing . . . for the impact,” struggling against assault or abuse or mental illness or a court system that doesn’t believe them, a healthcare system they can’t afford, or silences they don’t understand. Human Heartbeat Detected introduces us to women on l(edges) who scramble back, or don’t. Clammer, who describes herself as a “terribly impulsive woman,” once again showcases how the essay, as a genre, follows its own impulses. “We’re all full of surprises,” Clammer writes. So is this bold collection.
—Jill Talbot, author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir
In her third collection, Clammer’s command of—and true delight in—the lyric essay is on full and marvelous display. Human Heartbeat Detected is an exquisite and almost improbable marriage of opposites, in both content and form. Brash, bawdy, and tender by turns, these essays linger in the shadow where love and hatred overlap, pinpoint the instant when the past bleeds into present tense, articulate with awful beauty how the body chafes against the mind. Shelve this somewhere between Purpura and Baudelaire; these essays exist at the precise juncture of the sublime and the profane.
—Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness
“It’s rare to read a book as daring and alive as Human Heartbeat Detected. Chelsey Clammer isn’t afraid to take us to the darkest places, but it’s always in service of ongoingness, a deep belief in love and what it exacts of us. How do we live in the wake of catastrophe? Every sentence here strobes with the light of that question.”
—Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door
“In Human Heartbeat Detected, Chelsey Clammer’s innovative and gripping essay collection, trauma lives side by side with possibility. Lives are fractured, yes—by assault, abuse, self-harm, mental illness, suicidal acts—but, as the narrator reminds us, ‘fractured is better than shattered.’ Like trauma, which ‘isn’t a linear experience’ but rather ‘loops,’ Clammer’s essays bend and twirl and spiral and twist, transforming pain into art.”
—Rebecca McClanahan, author of In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays