Monday, January 10, 2011

How Not To Handle Adversity, by Joshua Ferris

Okay, I'm getting into this.  There's a lot of Stuff going on in The Unnamed, but it's starting to fit together for me.  There's a whole pathetic fallacy thing going on, where Tim's unexplained health problem is paralleling or tied to the strange, pre-apocalyptic weather.  There's a cycle of suffering, mourning, relief, and fear, which I think is powerfully illustrative of how gradual change can feel like repetitious cycles, only in retrospect revealing itself to be a circuitous path from point A to point B.

But really, this is about What Not To Do If You Get Terribly Ill.  I'll try not to spoil much.

1) Don't try to pretend it's not happening, especially if the job you're going to every day but can no longer competently do is a matter of life and death.

2) Don't lie to your boss and coworkers, telling them you have to rush to the bedside of a dying relative.

3) If you're rich, hire a freaking visiting nurse already.  Don't make your spouse do all the work.

4) Speaking of which, if you're rich, maybe you should move to a part of the country where an illness that compels you to go outside no matter what the weather is won't be as much of a problem.  Say, Los Angeles, or maybe divide your time between a nice island off the Carolinas (for the mild winters) and a lovely cabin in New England (for hurricane season).

5) Really, what it all comes down to is a very Zen idea of acceptance, which is not about giving up on change, but about acknowledging reality.  The fact is, if the life you had is gone--your old idea of health, of choice, of ability--then you're better off looking at the new reality and making plans around it, rather than pretending you can hold onto what you've already lost. 

The impression this book leaves me with reminds me most of The World We Live In, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, because the whole time I was reading that book I was thinking, "When are you going to get some UV bulbs and build a greenhouse powered by a windmill and become self-sufficient already?  What are you waiting for?"  This book is leaving me with a very similar feeling--though I give it more credit for doing this intentionally.

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