How much of your life would you be willing to give up in order to care for a friend dying of cancer? That's the question at the heart of The Spare Room, a realistic portrayal of a woman who commits to housing her dear friend for three weeks she's undergoing treatment at a "holistic" clinic.
Not discounting the heart-wrenching experience of watching your friend dying before your eyes, how long could you put your own life and work aside before it all became too much for you to bear alone? Stripping sweat-sodden sheets throughout the night, holding your tongue from telling her to accept the inevitable, control her pain, and live the rest of her days as pain-free as possible, all the while sick with exhaustion from caring for an invalid 24 hours a day.
The story is gritty, unrelenting, and well-written. I thought it just a bit detached, but that may be the effect Garner intended, as well as my own impression of her prose. Depressing though it sounds, it's a very good read. It's also a mercifully short book. I'm not sure how much one could bear reading about someone brutalized by cancer.
So that answers the question, "What have you been reading?" And what's next in the reading pile? I'd been working on a Mario Vargas Llosa novel, but somehow it wound up in the basket under the family room coffee table. Then there was my brief stint with Rushdie's Midnight's Children, a wonderful book, brilliant, but I put that one aside, too, and I don't recall why. Probably for no reason at all, save my incredible knack for distraction. Now I'm busy with a review book on the Romanov women, Ross King's Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling for my nonfiction group, and I need to start on War and Peace, in anticipation of January's Classics Group meeting. You could say I'm keeping busy.
What have I been doing otherwise? Lots of artsy craftsy stuff. Fall seems to bring out that urge in me. I've been working, drawing, crocheting and shuttling kids to and fro. Toss with mundane everyday family maintenance, sprinkle with as much sleep as I can grab, and voilà! Almost too much excitement to bear.
Still struggling with nasty arthritis issues. I'm a little stubborn (READ: stupid), so I haven't gone back to the doctor to ask for the round of injections he suggested as the next step in my treatment plan. That's partly my ADD-scattered brain, partly my tendency to not take the best care of myself, and the last part sheer laziness. I have no one to blame but myself, and I know it, but that's just me. Could I be more annoying?
Weirdly, this is the first year in quite a long time I haven't felt an incredible depressive weight on my shoulders approaching the holidays. I was in Michael's (craft store) (of course) this morning, buying yarn for a project, and I didn't throw things at the speakers blaring holiday music. Very strange. Uncharacteristic, even. It didn't make me want to tune in the radio stations playing the stuff (yes, already, and for at least a couple weeks now), but neither did I projectile vomit. Maybe that's a good sign I won't run up to small kids and tell them there's no Santa, that their parents are lying jerks and should be strung up for misleading the young and impressionable. Mall Santas won't have to watch their backs. I may not even drop a match at tree lots, cackling madly as I hobble away on my arthritic legs, looking not at all suspicious.
But forget all that heavy thought. This weekend Galpal and I plan to get together and do things artsy and craftsy, gabbing as we work. I suspect alcohol will be involved at some point – of course, never to excess, though that could result in increased "creativity." Aren't the best works created by alcoholics and those plagued with depression, anyway? Score!
I'll post photos of anything we create. That is, if I'm able to focus. The camera or my eyes? We'll find out.