I'm not sure why I bought a paperback copy of A Paris Apartment, although I know it was on sale, quite inexpensive. I'll have no regrets passing it along though, no desire ever to read it again, no need to keep it on a shelf. By contrast, another book I read in the last two weeks, Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air, was a library copy on a Seven Days Only loan (on threat of heavy fines for each day of late return). I'd stopped into our local library when we were ousted from our home a few weeks ago so that prospective buyers could poke around freely. When I spotted Kalanithi's book, having read so much about it in the Books section of both the newspapers I read and all over the webs, I snatched it up quickly. My only reservation was that I suspected this book would be one I'd one to turn back to, and, indeed, I'm already wishing I had my own copy so that I could quote significant bits to you.
In case you haven't read reviews of this book yet, I will tell you that Kalanithi was just coming to the end of his neuro-surgical residency when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite the inevitably terminal nature of the cancer, already well advanced when it was identified, Kalanithi and his wife, Lucy (who wrote a most beautiful epilogue to the book) lived rich lives full of satisfying work (he takes on some brutal therapy with inspiring fortitude and returns to surgery with a brilliant mix of confidence and humility and determination). Besides writing the book itself, after surgery is no longer within his reach, Dr. Kalanithi and his wife (also a medical specialist, an internist, if I'm remembering correctly) have a child together, a daughter with whom he is able to spend precious months, and for whom the book, one hopes, will offer some sense of the good and wise and brilliant man her father was. There is one paragraph I'd particularly love to quote, in which the dying Dr. Kalanithi speaks directly to his daughter, hoping that she will one day understand that no matter what else she does with her life, she once gave intense joy to someone whose life was fading away. My paraphrase is sloppy, and I apologise. But after all, I would love you to read this book for yourselves.
If you'd like to read a more comprehensive review before finding a copy of the book, here's what Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times. I'm sorry I'm doing the memoir such little justice here, but I've been so busy with selling the house, and now that we've begun packing, I see scant opportunity to write much here in the next while, although I'm still very aware that I must try to say something cohesive about Ferrante's Neapolitan series before too much longer -- Dottoressa sent me her thoughts about these books, and I need to step up and do my part in putting a post together. Just know that I haven't forgotten the promise, and I thank you for your patience.
Meanwhile, I continue to move back and forth between escape reading (most recently, Patricia Cornwell's most recent Kay Scarpetta mystery, Flesh and Blood -- this series has been erratic lately, but this volume is more tightly edited and there's some interesting introspection and remembering by Scarpetta. The ending, though. Hmmmm!).
That mystery was a library copy as well -- Too bad that just as I begin to get into a habit of using our local library (after years of using the university library for professional reading and buying the books I read for personal interest/pleasure), we'll be moving away from it. But there will be another (bigger) library. . .
Packing up for a weekend in the city, I've tucked a library copy of Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir in my bag. Have any of you read it? Or any of the other books I've mentioned here?