The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie's Lingo

In the few months I have been on Jakafi, I've had bronchitis twice, throat fungus once, and stomach flu, also once. The other night I said to L. I need to get back into the mode I was in when I was on chemo (for breast cancer)--sleep a lot, stay far away from people who are the least bit sick, and be super-vigilant about exposure to germs. Example from bc-chemo: I was at a cafe and ordered a sandwich at the counter, and saw the sandwich-ista was handling everything--no gloves or anything. (I already sound like a nut, right?) and I said, Excuse me, but I'm going through chemo, and I'm very susceptible, could you please--what did I ask her to do? She either had plastic gloves back there or not. Maybe that's not a good example. What I wanted to show was I had to overcome embarrassment in order to protect myself. I recalled that the plastic bag that the bottle of Jakafi comes in says CHEMOTHERAPY in scary zig-zag letters, or there is something lightning-boltish about the warning. So I legitimately am in chemo. Going through chemo. What is the correct verb? I arrived in Arizona yesterday for the Nonfictionow Conference, and I wanted to skip a group dinner, but I didn't. It was fun (though the food at the Dreary Inn is twice the price it should be and one fourth the quality) but I would have been better off sleeping. I slept late and ran into the conference organizers in the very cute Matador coffee shop across the street from the hotel, which is somehow encompassed by Northern Arizona University, or NAU ("gnaw"--the mascot is a beaver chewing on a log) and R asked if I had gone to a morning panel. I said, No, I had to sleep, I'm in chemo, but so that he wouldn't be alarmed, I said, but it's good chemo.
Why do I need to keep people from being alarmed? I do have this fucking incurable and rare blood cancer. It's not the hair-falling-out chemo but it is the suppress-your-immune-system chemo. Suddenly, if I convince myself that I am indeed going through chemo, then my world-view ( Weltanschauung) and my priorities shift: My goal becomes making sure that I don't get sick. I suddenly have the right to that goal. And everything else follows from that.

Nonfiction Now: You Lived Through It; Do We Have To Read About It?

If you'll be in Flagstaff, we invite you to come to our panel at 9 a.m. Saturday, Halloween Morn, in Doyle at the conference center. You are encouraged to wear your pajamas. Lost your schedule? Click here.

[Just roll right out of bed and come on down.]

Here's a description of the panel.
Much has been written about the therapeutic benefits of writing and art-making for survivors of traumas such as war, disasters, slavery, disease, rape, incest. In other words, the writing is generally agreed to be good for the mental health of the amateurs. What about those of us who call ourselves writers? When does nonfiction writing about trauma rise to the level of art? What makes some artful, and others, self-serving and irrelevant? Of course the answers are subjective, but we will explore the questions and hazard some answers. Speaking as writers, readers, and editors, we will examine successful and unsuccessful creative nonfictions and tease out our reasons for making those judgments.

These are the authors and works we are quoting in our presentations, as well as other recommended works. Also included are links to books we've written.

Jane Hirschfield, Given Sugar, Given Salt
Dani Shapiro, Still Writing
Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face
Gregory Orr, The Blessing
Richard Hoffman, Half the House
Kathryn Harris, The Kiss
Janice Gary, Short Leash: a Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance

Joan Didion, "Goodbye to All That" in Slouching Towards Bethlethem
Toni Morrison, "The Site of Memory" in Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, ed. William Zinsser
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself
(Note: There are various versions of his autobiography.)
Judy Ruiz, "The Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy Horse: A Trilogy," Iowa Review vol. 23, no. 2
S.L. Wisenberg, The Adventures of Cancer Bitch book
Holocaust Girls: History, Memory & Other Obsessions

Alfred Doeblin, Destiny's Journey
Raymond Federer, SHHH: The Story of a Childhood
Stanley Elkin, "Why I Live Where I Live" and title essay, Pieces of Soap
Janet Burroway, Losing Tim: A Memoir
Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals
An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum

Elizabeth Kadestsky:                                                                                                                                          Judith Herman: Trauma and Recovery
Ben Yagoda: Memoir 
Cathy Caruth (essays by Dori Laub and Cathy Caruth in) Trauma: Explorations in Memory
Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking
Simone de Beauvoir: A Very Easy Death
JoAnn Beard, The Boys of my Youth ("Fourth State of Matter")
Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli
Sarah Manguso, The Guardians 
Sophie Calle, Exquisite Pain
Elizabeth KadetskyThe Poison that Purifies You 
On the Island at the Center of the Center of the World 
First There is a Mountain: A Yoga Romance

Die Welten

It's interesting (to me at least) how we (I) try to find the logical roots of Symptom. A bad headache: not enough sleep. Caffeine withdrawal (though not enough time had passed without it to constitute withdrawal). Heredity: O this dizziness is what my mother goes through with her vertigo, dormant for ten years until late this summer. Power of suggestion: the nurse at the oncologist's on Wednesday went through my medications and symptoms. Dizziness and nausea? she asked and I said no. But then here they were, the very next day. And then when it becomes clear (Mayo Clinic on the internet) that I have "stomach flu" or gastroenteritis, another hunt for etiology: the River (but we rowed down a cleaner part of it on Wednesday night), lowered immune system because of the new drug Jakafi--which handily leads into my world view, my Weltanschauung, which is Weltschmerz--from every good (new drug) flies a corresponding and ironic bad.

(Cemetery, Basking Ridge, NJ, where we went for my cousin's wedding in late September. Tombstone standing in for the glass the groom stomps on: sadness and broken things in the midst of happiness and beginnings [let's ignore the obvious sexist connection to the breaking of the hymen])