Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Breathing for a Living by Laura Rothenberg

I always feel very strange reading this type of book. Like a voyeur, I worry. Wanting to hear about someone else's difficulties with life so I can sit back and sigh and think "wow, that's terrible. Glad I don't have to deal with that!" Illness as entertainment.

On the other hand, if someone has a story to be told, and wants to tell it, does that change things? How would Laura Rothenberg want her story to be received?

And then, how do you judge such a story? If I'm overly critical about someone's account of their terminal illness, well, bully for me. Congratulations. On the other hand, does something get a by?

Luckily, at least, the latter wasn't a problem. I have read at least one account by someone with CF before, when I was a teenager. It read very much like what it was, a teenager's diary. This, while it has a diary feel sometimes, is more accomplished. Rothenberg was a writer with some chops, and is able to look at what she's going through both from the inside, while still having the perspective to think about things more abstractly.

I didn't find the medical details opaque, even though I might not understand every term. They were hard to hear, though, sometimes. That we can go through so much, no, that one person can go through so much.

I'm not sorry I read this when it popped up on one of the many lists I choose books from. I'm still a little uneasy, though. But I am left with one of the two great truths that I discovered during my father's time of dying. (This comes from Niels Bohr, who apparently said: "There are trivial truths and there are great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.")

Our bodies are so strong.
Our bodies are so fragile.

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