An asthma memoir which was inexplicably the only book I had with me in the doctor's office the other day, after I bought it for a quarter at Out of the Closet thrift shop. (All thrift shops are frequently excellent sources for obscure and very cheap new books, but ones which raise money for gay causes tend to have particularly good selections. The Jewish Women's thrift shop, on the other hand, tends to have the best clothes.)

Memoirs are difficult to review without reviewing the author as well. Like the author, (frequently) like the book; dislike the author, (usually) dislike the book, but feel guilty about saying why. Illness memoirs, like childhood abuse memoirs, are particularly difficult to write honest negative reviews of, because no one wants to write "This memoir about death by leprosy suffers from the author being a whiny, self-involved, pretentious git."

Asthma is a very serious illness. People die from it. It can seriously limit people's lives. I understand this and sympathize with it. So I blame DeSalvo's writing style for making her seem like a whiny, self-involved, pretentious git when she describes how her asthma, which she acquired as an adult, transformed her into a shut-in who can't go to a restaurant because someone might be wearing perfume and the food might contain MSG or preservatives, or drive in a car because the fumes might choke her, or go to a beauty salon because someone might be getting a manicure, or read a newspaper because it might emit toxic ink fumes.

I was struggling not to be judgmental, but then I got to the part where DeSalvo takes several pages to conjugate the sentences "I have asthma," "I am an asthmatic," and so forth. I mean this literally-- she draws diagrams pointing out the subject and the predicate and so forth.

"The angled line that indicates the predicate adjective marks too close a connection between me and asthma. It's like a little slingshot, flinging the word 'asthmatic' back at me."

This, I have no qualms about being judgmental about. I judge it to be incredibly pretentious.

And then there's her conclusion:

"What I believe we need to do to stop the alarming increase in the number of asthma cases:

1. Stop abusing the planet. Clean up the air.

2. Stop abusing our children, stop terrorizing them, stop sexually abusing them.

3. Stop trauma. (This includes stopping war.)"

Behold the power of writing: In four sentences, DeSalvo makes three of my most passionately held beliefs about what's wrong with the world and what we should do to fix it look really, really stupid.

Note: Beliefs I hold in general, I mean. I don't think the second two have all that much to do with asthma.

Note: Is it just me, or is my "Ed among the ignorant" icon all-to-frequently appropriate of late?
An asthma memoir which was inexplicably the only book I had with me in the doctor's office the other day, after I bought it for a quarter at Out of the Closet thrift shop. (All thrift shops are frequently excellent sources for obscure and very cheap new books, but ones which raise money for gay causes tend to have particularly good selections. The Jewish Women's thrift shop, on the other hand, tends to have the best clothes.)

Memoirs are difficult to review without reviewing the author as well. Like the author, (frequently) like the book; dislike the author, (usually) dislike the book, but feel guilty about saying why. Illness memoirs, like childhood abuse memoirs, are particularly difficult to write honest negative reviews of, because no one wants to write "This memoir about death by leprosy suffers from the author being a whiny, self-involved, pretentious git."

Asthma is a very serious illness. People die from it. It can seriously limit people's lives. I understand this and sympathize with it. So I blame DeSalvo's writing style for making her seem like a whiny, self-involved, pretentious git when she describes how her asthma, which she acquired as an adult, transformed her into a shut-in who can't go to a restaurant because someone might be wearing perfume and the food might contain MSG or preservatives, or drive in a car because the fumes might choke her, or go to a beauty salon because someone might be getting a manicure, or read a newspaper because it might emit toxic ink fumes.

I was struggling not to be judgmental, but then I got to the part where DeSalvo takes several pages to conjugate the sentences "I have asthma," "I am an asthmatic," and so forth. I mean this literally-- she draws diagrams pointing out the subject and the predicate and so forth.

"The angled line that indicates the predicate adjective marks too close a connection between me and asthma. It's like a little slingshot, flinging the word 'asthmatic' back at me."

This, I have no qualms about being judgmental about. I judge it to be incredibly pretentious.

And then there's her conclusion:

"What I believe we need to do to stop the alarming increase in the number of asthma cases:

1. Stop abusing the planet. Clean up the air.

2. Stop abusing our children, stop terrorizing them, stop sexually abusing them.

3. Stop trauma. (This includes stopping war.)"

Behold the power of writing: In four sentences, DeSalvo makes three of my most passionately held beliefs about what's wrong with the world and what we should do to fix it look really, really stupid.

Note: Beliefs I hold in general, I mean. I don't think the second two have all that much to do with asthma.

Note: Is it just me, or is my "Ed among the ignorant" icon all-to-frequently appropriate of late?
.

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