Friday, March 18, 2011

Five best novelists on illness

Lionel Shriver's books include Orange Prize–winner We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World, A Perfectly Good Family, Game Control, Double Fault, The Female of the Species, Checker and the Derailleurs, Ordinary Decent Criminals, and So Much for That.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of novelists on illness.

One entry on the list:
Teach Us to Sit Still
by Tim Parks (2010)

With emotional and medical candor, Tim Parks's memoir about agonizing prostate pain describes a battery of grueling tests as Western medicine systematically eliminates every explanation for what could be causing it. Is the pain actually in the author's mind? If so, does his suffering not exist? Even with the final possibility knocked out—Parks doesn't have cancer—his doctor, incredibly, still wants to remove his prostate. Leery of side effects like incontinence or impotence, Parks sensibly decides against having an operation simply for the sake of seeming to do something. He's not the wheatgrass-juice type, but he finds relief—to his astonishment—through relaxation therapy and meditation. Prostate pain, it turns out, might be caused by tension in the pelvic floor. (Rationalists can take heart; anyone who has had a back spasm is familiar with the intimacy between musculature and nerves.) Parks writes: "Illness, I realized then, like love or hate, draws everything to itself, turns everything into itself. Whatever I thought about came back to that: my condition."
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue