Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Gifts Of Bronchitis

It took a chest X-ray to finally determine the ailment that's laid me out like a gutted trout for the last week: bronchitis. I won't go into the details of my adventure, except to say that even after a run of freakishly hot summers, I never dreamed the human body could produce so much sweat.

As with most treatable ailments, there was an immediately recognizable silver lining. Two gifts stand out. First was uninterrupted reading time - or rather, reading time interrupted only by lengthy rounds of sleep. Aches and pains and delirium were the only intrusions on an otherwise paradisaical set-up. I devoured magazines, and finished work on three books that had been my dusty bedside companions for the last six months. To wit:

Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson. My earlier complaints about this book still stand, but my youthful experience of Snow Crash was such a mind-blowing delight that I willingly commit myself to reading the next 1800 pages Stephenson is set on publishing. I'm also happy to report the second half of the book is more compelling than the first. People wanting to check Stephenson out, however, should probably avoid this book in favor of Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon.

Rumors of Another World, by Philip Yancey. I've read a handful of Yancey's books over the years. I like him. He probes his (I would say) orthodox Christian faith with a sensibility that is literate and humane. I have no trouble recommending this book, but my favorite is still the archly-titled, Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived The Church.

Rosemary's Baby, by Ira Levin. Michael Blowhard made the case (here) that Levin's prose was more commendable than Nabokov's. I won't wade into that particular fray except to say that Levin's prosaic abilities are probably better overestimated than under. I thought it was terrific, and genuinely unnerving, to see Rosemary gradually transformed into a creature more profoundly disturbing than the devil-spawn she finally gives birth to. The coven's first victim is a Jew, and I think you could justifiably read the story as a damning metaphor for the rise of Nazism, a pulp j’accuse, or as an acidic exposure of the way the modern mind will perform cartwheels ignoring the growing evil within and without. Hmm. Did Levin ever consort with Aaron Appelfeld, I wonder?

Returning to the Sunny Side, then: the second gift of my malady was the kindness of family members. The Missus generously administered, and the two girls were their usual selves, but my illness allowed me the capacity to better appreciate their everyday efforts at being civil creatures. No small thing, that - but so easily taken for granted.

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