Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking

There are many facets to this diamond among memoirs. And there are many layers to Joan Didion’s grief and mourning recorded in the year following her husband’s death. He is magically all too present in these pages, even though John Gregory Dunne died on 30 December 2003. The magical thinking of the title is the belief that Joan can bring him back, that he is not dead. But it is also the belief that Joan could have done something that would have altered the outcome. And it is also the conceit we all share – at least at some level … Read more...

Christy Brown – My Left Foot

My Left Foot is best known now for the film version. Daniel Day-Lewis played Christy Brown, famously staying in role as the adolescent and young adult with cerebral palsy even during breaks in filming.
But originally My Left Foot was Christy Brown’s first published book, to be followed later by Down All The Days, and other novels and poetry. Although it concerns the struggle of a child to find means of communication and then expression, despite the difficulties imposed by an athetoid cerebral palsy, this is much more than an encounter with a neurological condition, an ‘illness narrative’. It … Read more...

Nick Duerden – Get Well Soon

It is a thankless task to disentangle the ways the brain affects the body and the body affects the brain – the more so as researchers like Antonio Damasio demonstrate how many of our mental processes are a product of somatic reflexes and memory. People who experience chronic fatigue syndrome or post-viral fatigue have an even more confusing task in that many doctors deny the physical origin of these conditions, or at any rate the physical nature of their long-term symptoms. During the long history of these chronic conditions the contributions of physical and mental elements will change. It is … Read more...