Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Bloody Good Read

I read an interesting article the other day in the New York Times by Abigail Zuger entitled Compelling Stories, If Not Literature. The main gist of the article focuses on memoirs written by those poor unfortunates who have been through some catastrophic event or illness and feel compelled to share what they have learned and lived through with the rest of the world via a published written work. The article goes on to question whether these kinds of scribblings have some therapeutic value both for the writer and the reader, and whether the author's work should be held to the same literary standards as any other would-be author looking for the life-changing book deal.

I thought I'd weigh in on the debate. I mean I am pretty involved in the wacky world of life-threatening illness, I do write this highly popular blog which will result in a book deal any day now, and I am a sucker for a good read about someone else's miserable existence.

Now I don't know about you, but I thought James Frey's memoir about his drug addiction and subsequent rehab experiences, Million Little Pieces, was a bloody good read. Okay so it was all lies as exposed by Saint Oprah, but it still doesn't detract from the fact that it was a bloody good read. I also remember devouring the anonymous diary of a drug-addled teenager, entitled Go Ask Alice, when I was a teenager and thinking that was a bloody good read as well. Who really knows if that was an authentic account or just another brilliant literary figment of some book publisher's imagination, but who really cares ? It was good. I also recall reading someones memoir (the title eludes me) about their lifelong struggle with colitis. In fact it was where I learned everything I know about colitis. Okay it was a pile of poorly written crap (pardon the horribly misguided pun) but it did go into a lot of gory detail about the inner-workings of the bowels which for some reason I found completely and utterly fascinating and just couldn't put down. Then of course there was Lance Armstrong's epic work cutely titled It's Not About the Bike, covering his bout with metastatic testicular cancer. I personally didn't think this one was very well written either, but I did enjoy the rather gruesome descriptions of his monumental chemotherapy sessions and subsequent recovery and at the end of the day, one had to admire a guy who went through all of that and then goes on to win the Tour De France, how many times ?

So what's my point I hear you all ask ? I don't know if I really have one. But I do know that going through something that forces you to question everything that you thought you knew about yourself and life in general, does in some cases give you a voice you never knew you had. For me anyway, writing about what I know, or my truth in Oprah-parlance, is a way to connect with the experience on some level other than in the four-walls of the Doctors office hooked up to an IV pole, or crossing the finish line of another pink-washed fundraising event, or waiting on another endless round of test results. Writing and commenting on the issues as I see them, is just a way for me to express to the world where my state of mind is at. It's also a really great way to keep the old brain ticking over. If this silly little blog turned out to be something more, because so many people were interested in what I had to say, then great, if not, then so what. I still get to say what I want to say.

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