Monday, March 30, 2009

Broyard blogging

I've been wanting to reread Anatole Broyard's Intoxicated By My Illness since I got diagnosed, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. But I feel like the critic and essayist -- who died of prostate cancer in 1990 -- has been floating around me recently. His daughter came up here to read from her memoir (Broyard scrapped his racial identity to "pass" for white when he moved to New York from New Orleans). Dana Jennings, who is writing about his prostate cancer for the Times, quoted some of Broyard's odd and intriguing thoughts in a recent column:
“It seems to me that every seriously ill person needs to develop a style for his illness," he quotes Broyard as writing, adding on another thought from Broyard later in the narrative: “Only by insisting on your style can you keep from falling out of love with yourself as the illness attempts to diminish or disfigure you.”
I found this, from Bliss Broyard's memoir One Drop, shocking. I'll put it out there in the hopes that it will trigger more thoughts soon.

Quick set-up: Anatole Broyard, Bliss Broyard's father, is terminally in and in the midst of a crisis. Her mother sends him to him:
His gaze was focused on an invisible spot before him. I thought perhaps that he was staring down a tunnel to the end of his life and that I should try to ease his mind by reassuring him that he'd arrived there valiantly. I pulled a chair to the head of his bed and leaned in close and whispered to my father that I loved him, that he'd been a great dad, that because of him, I'd never be able to lead an ordinary life. These words were true, but saying them made me feel uncomfortable, following as I was some borrowed notion of how to act at a loved one's deathbed. ... His eyes glanced in my direction, which encouraged me to continue. I told him that I was proud of him, of all that he'd accomplished, and that he'd had a successful life. He looked at me again and spoke in a hoarse whisper: "Blissy, enough with your bromides. I'm trying to concentrate. You have no idea how difficult this is."
The rigor and cruelty of that haunts me.

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