Thursday, April 21, 2011

Go Ask Alice & Wit - Two Journeys Through Drugs, Cancer and Death

I'll admit I chose this month's book for the cover - well, for the name "Anonymous", author unknown (or rather, simply not disclosed). Set in the late 1960's, book is the real diary of a regular teenage girl who is tricked into taking LSD for the first time and re-enters the world of temptation by choice. Her struggle to get clean, stay clean, reunite with her family and avoid sabotage by those who want to see her suffer with them makes this simple, hour long read, an intriguing drama. This diary makes me realize how small our problems are compared to those who are addicted to something, anything. Control in our own lives seems somewhat limited.

In fact,as I read it, another short story, a play, came to mind. Admittedly, I read it to help a student with a paper, but the short account has a powerful theme. W;t (Wit, with a semicolon instead of an "i"), is the story of a pause in a professor's life. She is a hardworking professor who specializes in the poetry (on life and death) of John Donne. When she suddenly falls ill with ovarian cancer, detected at the last possible stage, she realizes there is no one to call; she has isolated herself from her family and friends. Doctors give her two days to live, and she evaluates her life. Ironically, a first year student in one of her classes (which are intense, serious lectures delivered with an all-work, no fun attitude) is now her doctor. Just as she was, he is blunt, hardworking and serious in his work and diagnoses Vivien as analytically and critically as possible. Suzie, her nurse, represents the fun, lovable, enjoyable part of life that Vivien regrets she never had.

Only her graduate professor - a man as hard working, grueling, and dedicated as she, visits her during her final hours.

Anonymous and Margaret Edson, the author of W;t, present opposite characters as protagonists - one is a teenage girl trying to discover life, while the other is a middle aged woman suddenly faced with death. Both authors present the strong motif of family - one in its presence, the other in its absence.

As I write this, on the 8.5 hour flight to visit family in London, I am struggling to evaluate my own life and balance my dreams with reality. It seems so strange to me that one negative conversation, one idea, on the brink of a vacation - can turn an exciting flight into an eight hour headache.

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