Monday, 6 December 2010

Writers with ME

I have been aware of two new ME-related books being out but haven't properly looked them up until now. I've ordered The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, I rarely buy books for myself these days - I get most from the library - such a precious resource, which our government has made an endangered species of - but this one seems special and I love the title. I like the thought of learning something new and the wild snail is a subject I would not usually seek out. (My cousin had giant African snails briefly - she was looking after them for her kids' school and she had to take them out of the bedroom last summer when I stayed over, I couldn't sleep with them all sucked onto the glass.) I also know the Herculean task that writing a book is when you are ill - though fiction and non-fiction have different demands - and I applaud anyone who gets through it. (More than two years on, I still feel in some ways I am recovering from The State of Me, which will only truly make sense to those who have this illness).

The other book, How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard, is about Buddhism and ME. This is the kind of book I would have bought when I first got ill, but I figure if I don't know how to cope with my illness by now, I never will. I did flirt with Buddhism in 80s/90s and I like its teachings. I still wish I could meditate properly and switch off (not a chance!). Though if I am honest, nowadays, self-help books have me running a mile, but this review makes me think the book is worth dipping into.

I also see that Laura Hillenbrand has a second book out. For those who don't know, she wrote the bestselling Seabiscuit, published 2001, which I must confess I have not yet read (though I've seen glimpses of the film). In this article she is described as having 'numbed herself off from things she cannot have'. She hardly listens to music anymore because 'it arouses all of this yearning in me'. I think this numbing off is essential, especially for those of those of us who got ill so young. (She was 19, I was 18, almost 19). But I love music (when my head can have it), though anything from mid-80s can still bring tears to me and I know this is because this is the music I was listening to when things changed forever.

*I have just seen that the mother of Lynn Gilderdale is writing a memoir, One Last Goodbye, published by Ebury Press next May, can be pre-ordered here.


Alison said...

I haven't read Seabiscuit either (yet) and I just picked up Unbroken tonight on a whim when it was on the big display at my local bookstore. I was just shopping for cards, I said I didn't need anymore books right now, but oh well. I wasn't aware of those other two books, I'll have to check them out.

I never thought that you'd still recovering (in some ways) two years later from writing The State of Me, but now that I think about it, of course you would be.

I don't think I'm ever going to recover from my attempt at NaNoWriMo, and I pretty much quit halfway through. Not trying that again.

kp said...

on the same track as know my thoughts on 'sound of a wild snail eating' and i've been meaning to blog about 'how to be sick' which i also think is one of my standout books in a really long time. and thinking about reading laura hillenbrand too...great to see this little influx of fantastic books by people with M.E.
think yours was the first i had really come across prior to these releases.

M. said...

I have no idea how people like Hillenbrand do it. I have written several novels during the time I've been ill (the first one to be published, Marian ilmestyskirja, is about a woman with CFS/ME or chronic Lyme) but there's no way I could have written any prose when I was at my worst - and I wasn't really that sick compared to many others. Heck, I couldn't even _read_ a novel back then. On my good days I would read medical textbooks, on mediocre days I would read magazines and on bad days I'd "read" ad catalogues...

nmj said...

hey alison, it is always so tempting to buy books you hadn't planned to, they are just too seductive! ...'Unbroken' is more interesting to me and i will def get in paperback or from library, i am very curious to see laura's style of writing... i still feel joy that my novel was published but the physicality of the writing (and rollercoaster of getting published) was quite a hellish journey at times, and as i have said before, i am not sure i could go through it again. and i am sure the recurrent uveitis i now have was a direct result of the stress... am more interested in smaller pieces of fiction just now... the 'stories for pakistan' was just 400 words and i have a wee piece of flash fiction (250 words) in my former university's online lit mag in jan 11 issue (

so 2 tiny pieces in 2 years is not exactly prolific but that is the way it is... writing good fiction is hard!

hey kp, thanks, your review & lovely photos also made me want to get tova bailey's book. it is interesting to see one illness inspire such diverse writing.

hey m, yes, you mentioned your novel before in my post on ME blogs... as you will know, writing a novel for yourself and writing a novel to be published are two v. different things... perhaps you had brainfog as your worst symptom? i notice that you also suffered from major depression for ten years, perhaps that impacted on your creativity too... i have linked to your website so that others can see your current, v prolific output... you are obviously doing much better these days! i think your novel is in finnish - unfortunately i will not be able to read it - i would have been interested to see how you approached the subject from a fictional point of view.

Cusp said...

'Snail is wonderful book. Just starting Toni's book. She has great following on FB and is very genuine and a lovely person.

Mischa said...

I've just put How To Be Sick on my Xmas list after seeing it mentioned here as it seems to chime with my own attempted approach, i.e. learning to accept illness rather than fight it.

nmj said...

Hey Cusp, It seems a lot of people are finding comfort in her book.

Hey Mischa, I will be very interested to hear what you think.

nmj said...

And here is turn your face to the sun's review of wild snail. (comments as kp above)

And her photos of snails, which are enchanting.

Susannah said...

I hear ya on the still recovering two years later, from your book. I too have very long recovery periods, especially from something that I put energy into long term.

Right now I am still in a relapse phase caused by going to my daughters graduation back in June, I think it was - and that was half a day!!

Stupid illness. :p

kp said...

thanks for the links to my blog nasim! (and hi cusp!!) ordered 'unbroken' for my dad for christmas and planning to borrow when i'm up to reading.