Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Six books on Alzheimer’s and a poem

Alzheimer’s is the cleverest thief, because she not only steals from you, but she steals the very thing you need to remember what’s been stolen ― Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title


‘Journey into Alzheimer’s’ by Ruth Blackford

To the best of my knowledge I don’t have Alzheimer’s although, if what I’ve read is anything to go by, none of us can say nay with any degree of certainty because it takes a while for any symptoms to manifest and even then the only way to know for sure is to cut your head open and look to see if there are any tangles and plaques in there. I do have difficulty remembering stuff. I’m in my fifties and most people my age will have started to notice that their brains aren’t quite as sharp as they once were. If I was to look on the bleak side I might be tempted to think I was suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) but since there’s no way to test for it conclusively, either, I’m not desperate to label what I have. But I do forget things quickly. If ‘forget’ is the right word and I’m not sure it is. There’s a negative connotation to forgetting. I don’t so much forget as let go of stuff once I’m done with it. I couldn’t tell you my daughter’s address or my wife’s mobile number. I know where to find both of them so I don’t need to remember them but it still puzzles me that I can’t remember them.

My ‘bad’ memory is nothing new. I’ve always had a ‘bad’ memory. For certain things. I was talking to my wife about this a wee while back—and I can remember talking to my wife so I clearly don’t forget everything. I was telling her about a boy I went to school with, Neil McC. We were in Primary One together and we left secondary school on the same day so I knew him for eleven years. We were friends, good friends for a while, but this is all I can remember about him apart from his looks: he was born on May 15th (the same date as my kid brother which is the only reason that stuck); he was into Genesis (while Gabriel was still in the band—I can picture him showing me The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in his bedroom) and Wishbone Ash; he lived on the ninth floor of the first block of flats you reached walking into town; he was with me when we found the fossilised ‘brain’ in the mud on the way to school (it was actually a sponge); he emigrated to Australia and his mother—who was a thin, tall, very polite woman—moved after that to a flat above the corner shop. And that’s it. Eleven years and that’s it. I couldn’t tell you if he was in the football team or the rugby team. I don’t know what subjects he took. I’ve no idea if he ever had a girlfriend at school although I don’t think so; very few of us had proper girlfriends at school.

Clearly I knew much more about him over the years but I’ve not felt attached to those things and I’ve let them go.

The subject of memory loss fascinates me though. There are things I wish I could remember more about and feel a real sense of loss over. I feel I’ve been negligent, not taken care of my memories. And that’s the thing when we’re kids, we can’t imagine getting old, losing our hair, our teeth, our figures, our memories; we’re cocky, we eat what we like, drink what we like, stay up as late as we like and never imagine there’ll be any consequences and then we hit fifty and find we have to watch our salt and sugar and fat and wheat and caffeine and milk—seriously, why did eating get so complicated? Use it or you’ll lose it, so they say. I neglected my memories and they faded away. Now I need memory aids to crack open the doors. If this flat burned to the ground and I was just me how much would be lost forever I wonder?

So I’ve been reading a lot about Alzheimer’s recently. I’m calling it research. I’ve been trying to write about memories for a while now—unsuccessfully I should add—and I was hoping one or more of these books might give me an in or an angle or something. So this isn’t a proper review, just a few observations. I chose five books originally and then ordered a sixth. There’s a lot of stuff out there directly (quite rightly) at carers: it’s a soul-destroying job having to look after a loved one with dementia and they need all the pointers and support they can get. I was more interested in what sufferers had to say.


Still Alice by Lisa Genova

still-aliceThis was a New York Times bestseller. I tend to shy away from bestsellers but I was pleased enough with the purchase. This is a novel and a very well-researched one at that. It focuses wisely on the early and middle stages and all credit to the author because the world she presents is realistic and believable. There’s not a great deal of plot and certainly no subplots. We simply follow this woman as she not-nearly-as-slowly-as-she-would-have-liked slips away. It can’t help but be tragic but the author doesn’t milk it although it does feel a little contrived at times: you know when the woman, Alice, describes the process of eating ice cream at the start of the book there’ll be a scene towards the end where she makes a mess of it; you know when she has a sister who died called Anne and a daughter called Anna they’re going to get mixed up in her head. The most heart-breaking thing is when Alice’s Blackberry, which she’s carried around with her as an extension to her memory, gets damaged; you can’t see the damage to her brain but you can see the damage to her phone. We know right from the start what the future holds for Alice. It doesn’t matter that she’s a plucky individual who’s not going to lie down to this easily because she’s got no choice; this was never going to be a fair fight.

If you know nothing about Alzheimer’s and want a quick overview then this is as good a place as any to start which is why I did; it was an easy read and far more enjoyable than a textbook with a title like Introduction to Alzheimer’s Disease. Shame it was written in the third person.


The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic by David Shenk

The ForgettingThis is an extremely well-constructed and well-written book. It treads the line between history book and memoir carefully but with something of the novelist’s panache. It should probably get labelled ‘Popular Science’ as it’s really not a textbook in the proper sense. There are several strands to this book which could have been presented as chapters in their own right but the constant interweaving of these stories—the history of Alzheimer’s from its initial discovery to now, the course of the disease, the life of Emerson, a conference in 1999—is beautifully done. It’s also a surprisingly frank book. It’s honest about the disease, yes, as you would expect, but it is also honest about those looking for a cure and the politics involved, who gets the grants and why and in that respect it shows up the major flaws in scientific research at the end of the twentieth century (the book came out in 2001) but there’s no reason to assume that things have changed much in the interim. Of course the book isn’t as up-to-date as it could be and there have been new discoveries since it was written but it is still well worth reading for its humanity. More than anything else I’ve read this author manages to put Alzheimer’s in perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the tragedy of it and not look properly at it. The book also discusses some frankly philosophical issues like the nature of memory and the fact that virtually all our memories are actually memories of memories: the things that get remembered are the things that get remembered. Loads of interesting anecdotes along the way. The one that jumped out at me was the debate that raged in the artistic community about the worthiness of the paintings de Kooning made after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Somehow his art—which was getting a little stale at this point—was granted a second wind, the last thing one would’ve expected. If the book is a little weak it’s on personal accounts—these tend to be relegated to quotes in-between chapters—but this is a minor gripe; there’re other books out there to fill that gap and I’ll come to them. Another valid ‘criticism’ I suppose is that the book is very American in its perspective. The writer drew on what was familiar to him. There are no doubt plenty of examples out there on the other continents that he could’ve used but it didn’t bother me.


Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's by Andrea Gillies

KeeperThis book upset me. The first two books didn’t upset me but this one did. The first two were good but I read them dispassionately. Keeper, on the other hand, got to me and it’s all credit to the author’s brutal honesty, not only about her mother-in-law’s condition and… I’m going to use the word ‘antics’ but it’s really far too jolly a word for what Nancy gets up to. Reading about how the disease affects people in a textbook is one thing but hearing someone describe the painfully slow decline of a loved one is something else. Have you ever watched a time-lapse film showing a piece of fruit decay? Well, that’s what this book was like. Months and months of a mind seizing up reduced to a couple of hundred pages. The tendency when faced with the ravages of extreme age is to look away. The author acknowledges this and tries to understand it; we all do it so it must be natural but to what end? And yet we’re not so squeamish when it comes to car crashes. Funny things us humans and by ‘funny’ I mean perverse. Normally we reign in that perversity but when we lose control it all spills out. Alzheimer’s is a very personal disease—no two cases will follow the same pattern—but it’s possible to outline the basic course of the disease and the author does slip in a fair amount about the nature and history of the disease and the progress that’s being made in treating it all of which is covered better elsewhere but that’s not what this book is all about. This book takes statistics and symptoms and charts and tables, gives them a name, a face, a past, a family and a personality, lights the blue touch paper and steps well back. If you’re only going to read one book on the subject then this wouldn’t be a bad choice. It was also nice that they were based in the UK and could talk about the problems they had with local councils and the NHS which despite being a national treasure is far from perfect.


Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer's by Thomas DeBaggio

Losing My MindThomas DeBaggio was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 1997; he was 57. He died in 2011. He wrote two books talking about his condition, Losing my Mind, published in 2002 and When it gets Dark published a year later. This was the first book about Alzheimer’s written by an actual sufferer; the novel I read was written from the perspective of a sufferer but the author didn’t have the disease and so it was a more polished and structured book than this, although not a bad book and clearly, as I’ve already said, well-researched. This book is the real deal and a much harder read. It’s not a hard read in the sense of it being an upsetting book; it focuses on his experiences whilst in the early stages of the disease and it’s only in the last few pages where, for example, he calls for his mother at night after having a nightmare that you see what the future’s going to be like and there’re other books that describe that vividly, albeit from a carer’s point of view. No, this is a book describing a man coming to terms with losing himself. What makes it a hard read is that he’s chosen to write the book in a style that emulates how his mind is working/not working. There is a rough chronology to the work but his jumps about from here to there and so it takes a while before you start to build up a picture of this man and his life. He’s not lived the most exciting of lives but his time as a journalist during the sixties and seventies was interesting. He inserts quotes from journals to explain the factual elements but strangely enough chose a lot of things that didn’t rehash what I’d read elsewhere and I was grateful for that. Some of the entries are just one or two lines long, things like “There is death working away in my body. I live there in the company of fears,” “What am I doing here?” and, for me the most powerful quote in the whole book, “Alzheimer’s has taught me that sometimes it is wise to look in the same place many times for the things you desire.” Pages and pages of these could quickly become maudlin but there are just enough of them and their brevity and poignancy jump out at you.

The author has made a real effort to be open and honest. That you’re left at the end of the book wondering about many of the things he’s mentioned is probably the nearest he was ever going to get to communicating how he must feel; the arbitrariness of the disease’s course definitely comes across.


Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch by John Bayley

IrisHaving seen the film adaptation, albeit a while ago, I was surprised to find I enjoyed this book as much as I did. Bayley has a nice conversational style and this is very much a memoir and not a biography although, of course, the book is full of biographical details. It is also a far from objective assessment of his wife and her achievements; he’s happy to leave others to do that. No, this is a record of a flawed man’s love for a flawed woman. His love, though, was not flawed and it was certainly not blinkered (from the very start he was well aware of her limitations) but it was total; he was devoted to her from the beginning. So if you’re looking to learn more about Iris Murdoch’s body of work or wanting to learn more about Alzheimer’s this really isn’t the book for you and it never pretends to be, in fact, as regards her dementia, in a single sentence he skips a whole eighteen months of the disease which I thought was a lost opportunity. Although the book is called Iris it could just as easily—more so in fact—have been called John because he really is the central figure here; this is his story even more than it’s his wife’s and so I suppose that might be another reason for it to disappoint, but all of it comes down to the expectation of the reader as opposed to the intention of the author. I’ve no doubt that he achieved what he set out to do and was pleased with the results. Oh, and I know my edition was promoting the film but did we really need a photo of Judi Dench on the cover; a subtitle ‘Now a major motion picture starring Judi Dench’ would’ve been quite sufficient.


When It Gets Dark: An Enlightened Reflection on Life with Alzheimer's by Thomas DeBaggio

When It Gets DarkHaving got a lot out of his first book I decided to order this one. I read the two books in the order in which they were written and because of this I find myself biased in favour of the first book but mainly because I read it first. The books cover the same ground. Both are in fact autobiographies but not of anyone especially famous—unless you’re into herbs, then DeBaggio’s name is well known—but of an ordinary, decent bloke who just happened to get some bad news from his doctor one day.

DeBaggio’s life is actually quite interesting—he grew up in interesting times—and as such listening to him talk about his life and his deaf cat isn’t unpleasant, although having no interest in gardening whatsoever, the long passages talking about the joy of dirt didn’t do much for me. Where his first book is “better” than this one is in its structure. In When it Gets Dark he utilises a chronological structure and so he doesn’t really get into the affect Alzheimer’s has on his life until about a hundred and fifty pages in, which is fine unless you’ve read the first book and keep remembering bits and bobs. The first book doesn’t follow a chronological structure and so it takes one longer to get to know the guy behind the words but it also presents—this was his intention—a more realistic impression of what a life with Alzheimer’s is like, at least in the early stages. It’s a harder read but a better one.

In both books he inserts his day-to-day thoughts into the flow of the text, little aphoristic statements, observations, poetical notes. What comes clear quite quickly is that the language with which he has to communicate his losses is rather clichéd: fading, crumbling, slipping. This is not his fault. Go to any funeral and you’ll see the same happen. People don’t know what to say and so they fall back on well-worn expressions: I’m sorry for your loss, He was a good man, He’s in a better place now.

That said DeBaggio does his damndest to present a brutally honest picture of his mental state despite the fact his text has had all the typos fixed and that does mask the effort that must’ve gone into this work; an appendix with an uncorrected page would’ve been appropriate. Although written later than the first book this second one doesn’t reveal a great deal more; he hasn’t moved on that far. I would recommend buying Losing my Mind rather than this one and certainly not both.


There’s not one single book in the list that covers everything. If you are looking to learn more about Alzheimer’s I’d recommend these three:

  • The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic
  • Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer's
  • Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's

The_Man_Who_Mistook_His_Wife_for_a_Hat_coverI bought all three for pennies on I’m not sure how useful they’re going to be in my writing but we’ll have to see what sticks and what my subconscious can make use of. While I was waiting on the second DeBaggio book coming I also read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks. The book underlined just how little we still know about the human brain and how it works. What’s clear is that it doesn’t lie down without putting up a fight.

I’ve very little experience of dementia. My mother was a wee bit doty towards the end and it might’ve been the early signs of dementia but she died of pneumonia before we had to worry about that. Carrie’s mother in the States is in the middle stages but I’ve not seen her since she got bad and so most of what I hear is second-hand. The only thing I’ve written on the subject is this short poem from 1983. I was taken to visit an old woman who’d just been admitted into a nursing home and whose short-term was shot. It was a terribly upsetting visit and despite the fact it’s been thirty years since I was there the experience has stayed with me. The old woman kept searching for her keys in her purse so she could go home. We’d explain to her that the nurses had them and why she’d been admitted and she’d calm down and then a few seconds later the memory of what we’d just said would slip away—you could literally see the awareness vanish from her face—and she’d begin her pointless task again. We were there for maybe an hour in which the same five minutes was replayed over and over again. Heart-breaking.


Sympathy and Apathy
sat side by side in
the old folks' home,
neither knowing what
they were doing there.
Not really.

(For Elizabeth Gray (91))

4 September 1983


Tim Love said...

The subject interests me too - my mother had it. But for the Sacks one I've not read any of the books you've mentioned. I've read "The Story of Forgetting" though, a novel by Stefan Merrill Block that ends with 3 pages of notes: references to scientific papers, websites, etc.

Gwil W said...

I've read The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat but I can't remember getting much out of it. I may go back to it and have another try. An Anthropologist on Mars is another Oliver Sacks book. The Case of the Colorblind Painter (chapt. 1) is particularly interesting. The brain is certainly a complicated business.

Jim Murdoch said...

They have that book on Amazon for a penny, Tim. My price, so I’ll give it a try.

And, Gwilliam, I wouldn’t rush to reread it. It reminded me of those Channel 5 shows, The Man with Three Buttocks, that kind of thing. The book had a bit more humanity about it but it still felt a bit like a carnival freak show. I read it because I kept hearing about it—the title certainly is memorable—but it wasn’t what I was looking for.

Kirk said...

My mother was never diagnosed for the disease, yet because of various pain medications she was taking for a serious illness toward the end of her life, she could easily have been mistaken for an Alzheimer's sufferer by someone who didn't know better.

I now this sounds a bit negative, but you really can't win with aging.

Marion McCready said...

Thanks for this, Jim. My mother-in-law is was diagnosed with it last year. It's frightening how much her memory has deteriorated in that time. However a strangely beneficial side effect has seen her overall happier. She's suffered from chronic depression for a large part of her life and after the initial fear of memory loss and anger and depression about what's to come she seems to have settled into a more carefree, settled existence living in the immediate, because of her memory loss.

Jim Murdoch said...

Oh, you’re right there, Kirk. If it’s not one thing then it’s another. That was one of the big questions that the book The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic raises: Is all this prolonging of life such a good idea? When did ‘life’ become just existence? In the past people died younger which is why very few displayed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s quite simply because they died before the worst of it. The big issue is quality of life. There’s something to be said for the philosophy, “[L]ive fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse!"

Amy Tan said something very similar, Marion: “People think it's a terrible tragedy when somebody has Alzheimer's. But in my mother's case, it's different. My mother has been unhappy all her life. For the first time in her life, she's happy.” My wife’s just off the phone to her mum and I haven’t heard such a painful conversation in a long while; the woman wasn’t getting anything her daughter was saying: “Hello, Mrs Lady . . . Lady . . . Laydee . . . Mrs Lady . . . No, not baby, lady . . . Lady . . . Dad was saying you were his lady and so I thought I’d say, ‘Hello, Mrs Lady’ . . . Yes, lady.” It went on even longer than that but you get the idea. You might find this new site helpful: (Dementia Just Ain't) Sexy

Gwil W said...

As I was saying the brain is a complicated business. I can illustrate this because in the course of my job I had one day to go to a residential home for Alzheimer patients - by the way they were called clients. Waiting for certain procedures to be put in place I got talking to a member of the staff when a man walked into the room and sat down next to us. After a while the man got up and left. The staff member turned to me and said: "That's a strange case. He can't remember his wife. Yet he never forgets his dog. She always brings it with her when she comes to visit."

Jim Murdoch said...

Ah, yes, political correctness, Gwilliam. Maybe it’s an age thing, maybe it’s the fact that my doctor’s don’t bill me for treatments but I actually prefer to be referred to as a patient; sick people are patients, they get treated by doctors and anything else feels pretentious. I’ve no time for it. I found a good article talking about the (supposed) difference between the two words here.

McGuire said...

My Granddad has dementia. He is slowly but surely sliding into oblivion. It is a shame, a were defragmenting of identity. Music can bring your sense of selfhood back for a time. He still has moments of lucidity and awareness. He is not totally destroyed yet but close to that edge.

Not sure I want to read about it. I fear for the future. I am a little worried about my parents ageing, my own ageing. How to keep it together?

Oliver Sacks is great. I have most of his books. The mind is a mysterious theatre indeed.

Jim Murdoch said...

I never thought much about dementia until I was ill a few years back, Colin. I’d never had a fabulous memory—I was bad with names but never forgot a face—but what was happening to me was scary; I would walk out of a room and forget where I was going or I’d go and do something else; I’d stand in front of the bunker and look at the coffee and sugar and have to think how to make a cup of coffee. The doctor certainly never suggested early onset Alzheimer’s because everything pointed towards a stress-related condition and we all assumed that once the stressors were removed I’d slip back into what was for me normal which is pretty much what has happened. I really have nothing much in this life to worry about other that writing a blog every week and yet I still have problems with my memory and with concentration. As long as I’m focused on stuff I’m fine—which is how I get the blogs done—but within a few days it all starts to fade and by the time I post them I have to read them again so I know what people are on about when they comment. I don’t see much point worrying about what I’ve got or what’s wrong with me and on the whole I don’t but I can’t pretend that the future’s not a concern. I have a wife twelve years older than me and not in good health and I’d always expected that I’d be the one who’d look after her. The possibility of me not being able to do so and actually needing her to care for me fills me with dread frankly.

You’re still young but you’re also living at a time when people are living longer and the maths is quite simple: the older you get the greater your chance of developing some form of dementia; Alzheimer’s has kind of taken over as the coverall term but it’s only one of many kinds. You’re going to get old and old people, despite the best efforts of medical science, get sick. They should get sick and die but we keep sticking our oars in an stopping that thinking we’re being kind or even being honest and accepting we’re being selfish but some hard decisions are going to have to be made in the years to come unless they do stumble on a miracle cure. You can buy insurance through the Alzheimer’s Society but it’s home, motor and travel insurance! When are we going to start putting money away for our dotages because the NHS and the DWP can’t afford to take care of all of us forever? Go into care today and the government will come along and take a huge bite out of your savings and possessions but, playing devil’s advocate here, what they take in most cases is still not as much as they’ll end up forking out as people insist on not dying in a timely fashion. It’s something we all have to think about because sooner rather than later there won’t be one of us who doesn’t know someone suffering from dementia.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I figure one of the things about the mind not working so well as we age is that as we get older we've got so very much more loaded into our heads. When you're a kid or young adult you don't have nearly so much to sort through ... when older your brain's also trained to certain habits and patterns which may cease to be adaptive.

Of course, we know by looking at gray hair and wrinkles and the tendency of the body to weary faster that the brain, also a physical object, can't be immune to wear.

Jim Murdoch said...

I suppose one could then argue that younger people have to work their brains harder, Glenn. I’m no brain expert so I don’t know. From what I’ve read though older people are just as capable of learning as are the young, possibly more so because the young are often more easily distracted. It’s swings and roundabouts. Getting old isn’t all bad. I had no patience at all as a young man. Now I think in terms of weeks when as a teen even having nothing meaningful to do for a few minutes bugged the hell out of me.

vito pasquale said...

Alzheimer's touches almost every family and like so many things is different for each and every one. I enjoy writing about memories because they can seem so real while at the same time they can be less than faithful to the original event. I once wrote about a couple who couldn't get along in their old age when they'd become nostalgic, because, although both of them had great memories. . . one would remember exactly where they'd eaten dinner while on vacation forty years earlier, and. . . the other remembered what they ate. One remembered the date and time when they first met, the other what they wore. Their memories were perfect but not shared. I suppose one might wonder what kept them together and it was that while young they both lived so fully in the present. As they aged, they started to see the future, their future together, become a memory.

You might remember (!) that one of the poems in Fourteen Threadless Needles was titled, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Poem." Its premise, that one would think that having a poem written for you is a good thing, is sometimes incorrect. In the poem, there is even some confusion about the poet's wife's eye color (blue or green) which plays on the whole notion of how true to life (or rhyme) a poem needs to be - how true to life a is a memory, a poem.

Your poem, The Visit, is wonderful. . . "neither knowning what / they were doing there.

I've been there too.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’d a feeling that this post would prompt a few responses, Vito. It really is worrying just how bad the problem’s got and so quickly. I love the idea behind your story. Carrie is always asking me if I remember things, the kind of things I should remember, and invariably my response is, “I can’t remember.” A part of me feels that I don’t care. If I cared I’d think about these things often—ah, that first kiss!—but the fact is I don’t remember our first kiss. Did I kiss her when she got off the plane or in the taxi or did I wait until we got back to the flat? No idea. We must’ve had a first kiss and a second and a third—I don’t doubt we had a first kiss—but it doesn’t seem to be important to me to remember the circumstances surrounding that kiss. And, no, I couldn’t tell you what colour her eyes are either. I know I’ve known but I’ve forgotten. Maybe I should be more worried than I am but this is normal for me. I’m always surprised when people start rattling off details from their pasts because I can’t and it doesn’t really bother me that I can’t except when I’m around people who can. I mean there are some things I do remember—I remember the first time I had sex and I remember thinking it was nice but nothing spectacular (what were all those magazines going on about?)—but I can only ever recall the gist of what went down. I certainly can’t remember the second time.

Kikka N said...

Thank Jim for this !
This is the area that goes just now strait into my heart. My mother is having one type of Alzheimer's disease. She was diagnosed quite many years ago...
There are ups and downs, depression and happy times in her condition. Sometimes her life is so "splitting" that it is hard to leave her without tears.

I have read many books about this. Also the one you mention, and in English: Still Alice. Did like the book very much. It was touching, because it told the story of a person still at work life.

There are also many books in Finnish which I have read about this area just now remember one:
Renate Dorrestein, " Pojallani on seksielämä ja minä luen äidille Punahilkkaa". (In English something like: " My son is having sexlife and I am reading Little red riding-hood to my Mother."

The brains are a big wonder in our lives. Could we take more care of them?


Jim Murdoch said...

I enjoyed Still Alice, Kikka, but it was a little slick and polished for my tastes. I can’t pretend the scene where she reads her message to herself didn’t move me because it did. It was well-written and obviously well-researched and I’m not surprised it became a best seller but the memoirs I read were better. Keeper was the one that got to me the most but as your mother is well down the road now you could probably write your own book now. I think it’s a book every carer should read though. I can find three of Dorrestein’s novels in English but not the book you mention. The title is memorable mind you, although the title in English would probably go more like My Son has a Sex Life and I’m Reading Little Red Riding Hood to my Mother.

Kikka N said...

Thank you Tim: I will find somewhere that book "Keeper" and read it.
And thank you for the name correction! Never too old to learn - I hope! ;)
When not "a native English speaker, I always make "mistakes". But I am not afraid of mistakes anymore. I used to be when I was young. It is so fun to be able to read books and even talk about them with somebody, although missing the sophisticated and official words for real literature "talk". And I admit, most of the time I just read your analyses.

Yes...about writing a book?
I have written a "book" about a time in my life. It is hidden somewhere inside the dust of an old computer:
I went through a serious burnout: Was a Senior Lecturer. Did too much work. Lost my memory totally.
Today I don`t remember everything I lost. It took me four years to realize: I am happy, I have wonderful family, I am sill alive.

Have a sunny day!

Jim Murdoch said...

‘Burnout’ is one of those terms, like ‘the flu’ that people bandy about without really understanding what they’re talking about, like ‘depression’, Kikka. No one has a ‘touch of the flu’. I had influenza once in my life and it floored me for a week. I’ve been depressed-with-a-capital-d four times and the effects lasted for years in every case and I’ve burned out once and I still don’t think I’ve recovered properly from it and it’s been about six years since I first went to the doctor. When I was at my worst my memory was terrible and my concentration was shot. I had to relearn things on a daily basis. But work got me through it. Not a job but the writing I started to do after the first few months had passed and I could thing half-straight.

I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist and hence I’ve always been unhappy with most things I’ve done because although they’ve been good enough for purpose they’ve rarely been good enough for me. It’s taken me years to put that into perspective and not want to die every time I make a mistake because I make a lot of them nowadays. I’m just grateful that my mother tongue is English and all credit to you for being able to stretch yourself. So don’t fret about making comments. I’ll get the gist. I’m just pleased I’m being read.

Kikka N said...

The perfectionist stuff is so familiar with me. My concentration is still "a bit of slippery" in stressful places, and all my hobbies, there are many of them, keep me "running".

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