The Island Theatre – Martha’s Vineyard
- by Joan -
Hope your weekend is as wild as ours!
This book is incredible. I tapped out a few generically awestruck tweets as I was reading it last night–the whole thing only takes a few hours, the short chapters come like shots–but I wanted to talk more about it.
It’s a memoir of the author’s twenties, of being struck, her sophomore year of college, by a rare neurological autoimmune disease.
The thing is, the author is a poet, and so her telling of those years is especially vivid, powerful, and scary. I don’t think I’ve ever read a better account of an illness (a grim accolade). I kept having to put the book down.
She writes about plasma apharesis, electromyography, having her central line put in (and taken out, and put in, and taken out. Thirty scars, in all, on her chest, she says, but she doesn’t mind them now). The good and bad nurses, one particular surgical tech, all the very many doctors. Addiction to tranquilizers and alcohol, her time spent, in a fussy circumlocution, “on the locked ward”. How corticosteroids aged her body, and how her illness made her mean. How it is, to navigate college and sex and friendships, as sick as she was. (We can’t escape learning that “college” means Harvard, that “grad school” means Iowa, to which I take a very dim view. But what kind of a snob would I be to hold that against someone?).
All of this, I read through the fact that one of my favorite poets was just diagnosed with breast cancer, and is undergoing treatment for it now. Of course poets get sick, of course. And of course they die; we all do, we all will.
But something I admire very much is how little she goes in for the great pain=great art equation. In fact:
And in the end (not to give away the ending):
Other reviewers have mentioned this–I think the jacket copy mentions this–but the difficulty of talking about illness without falling into cliche. She manages it.
I spent a lot of time today reading about vascular surgery: the history of the field, the most common procedures. I also went through and read her piece in The New Yorker about mental illness, and then one in Harper’s about motherhood, and liked them both.
And another, final ad hominem: from rudimentary poking-around (reading a few interviews), it looks like she studied classics in college. So of course I loved her book, and of course reviewers compare her to Anne Carson. That’s why she can tear apharesis apart into apo + haireo, away + take, to such beautiful poetic effect.
Two days ago fifty strawberry plants arrived ready for planting. FIFTY. The only problem was…..I hadn’t finished the spot to plant them!
Luckily we had plenty of cinderblocks so I could put up a small retaining wall of sorts, and I dug up several bucket loads of composted manure and hay from the back field to fill in the with the dirt.
It’s not the best handiwork that an afternoon has ever accomplished, but all fifty plants are safely and happily in the ground, ready to overwinter for a June fruiting.
Paul is going to drive some stakes into the “wall” for support and to give me something to hold up the netting we need to hang to keep the birds out.
Now I can’t wait for next June!
My dad bought this beautiful 21×28 map of the Vineyard for me in 1959.
This hand colored print was done in 1926 by painter, illustrator and cartoonist, Lloyd Coe. I love the details and bits of historical information.
I’ve never seen this map again in any stores on MV. Wonder if anyone else reading this has one ?
I don’t crochet often–hardly at all in fact, but I do like a good handmade cotton washcloth. I find nothing more boring than knitting washcloths. I think they’re gorgeous and lovely to use, but I have a hard time bringing myself to knit them. Crochet on the other hand, is something that I am inexpert enough at that crocheting a few rounds of double crochet is a fun challenge when I need to change up my evening routine, and in about the time it takes to watch an episode of Gilmore Girls, I have a washcloth
I realize washcloths are traditionally square, or at least rectangular, but I spent a lot of time learning how to crochet in the round, and I like to do it. Also, a find a round washcloth works just as well as a square one – perhaps better.
I like that it folds up into little crochet pizza slices that look good in ribbon.
And they look good with the soap too.
Any books or authors you hate? Why? Is it the writing? The stories? The author’s personality? And—would you read their work anyway?
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!