Sunday, 26 October 2008

Reading through egg yolkThe pic above is of a tiny corner of Powell's, the amazing, vast bookshop that takes up an entire city block in Portland, Oregon. This is just the fiction by authors whose names start with C. They stack new books right in there with used ones and different editions. It's wonderful.
:: I'm crook as a dog at the mo — just a head cold, but yucky. I remind myself of that passage in Bonfire of the Vanities where Wolfe describes someone with a hangover as having egg yolks inside his skull. Eeyew. But accurate.

It's not the sort of condition in which to take cold pills and go to bed with sore nose, rheumy eyes and aching teeth, head and neck to woozily read poet Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face.
But this is really very good; a treatise on self-esteem, image and the nature of beauty, in which she also documents dozens of operations, starting with having a lot of her jawbone removed when she was nine, followed by almost two years of chemotherapy, and radiation. In all, she had 38 operations through the rest of her life, many of them vain attempts to re-construct the part of her face that was missing.
I finished it quickly and then moved on to what is really its companion book, Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty.
I'm a great fan of Patchett's Bel Canto, and I have two other of her novels in my TBR bookcase.
I bought the Grealy book and T&B at Powell's, intrigued by a notice staff had stuck to the shelf explaining that Patchett and Grealy had been very close friends, and that Patchett had written her book after Grealy died a few years ago.
This is the story of their friendship through college, their struggling to become writers, and Grealy's obsession with being found lovable.
I don't have enough brain power or energy to say much more about these two volumes, other than to recommend them as fascinating reading. Grealy wrote with great elegance and surprising detachment about how she dealt with what she went through — not just the incredible pain, but also the desire to 'put on a brave face' and the psychological effects of all that. It's not an exercise in self-sympathy by any means.
Read them both when you're feeling hale and hearty!


rhubarbwhine said...

Feel better soon, head colds are the pits!

pinkfairygran said...

Hope you feel better soon... I know that head filled with cotton wool makes you inclined to just hibernate with a hottie, a snuggly, a mug of something soothing, and inanity on a video. I LOVE the inside of that book shop, the fact they put new books amongst the old, so treasures of all kinds old and new, jostling for space and begging to be bought in many cases. The book you mentioned about Patchett and Grealy sounds interesting too.. I have read Patchett, but not heard of Grealy here in the UK. And it was strange seeing you had posted a photo of bookshelves, since I did the same thing yesterday.. mine were less in quantity, but then it was just a part of our own library! Get well soon...