A short notice by Jane Tompkins
If you know anyone who has ME/cfs, please get them to read this book. I can’t judge how someone who doesn’t have the disease would react, but I found it hilarious and extremely comforting. Love and Fatigue tells the story of a 43-year-old British man (the author) who comes to the US to teach at a college in Spokane. While working out in the gym one day, he’s suddenly unable to move his limbs and has to lie on the floor a while before he has enough energy to stumble to his car. The first doctor he goes to (“Grumpy”) tells him he’s got chronic fatigue syndrome and that there’s no cure.
The rest of the book recounts his life for the next ten years, dwelling mainly on his love relationships and the ways he finds of dealing with the illness. He moves from Spokane to New Mexico to San Francisco, back to New Mexico, and then spends a long time driving around the country looking for a place to settle down. His love life is worth reading about but it’s his struggles with cfs that make the book. This is a disease that some people have called soul-crushing, worse than AIDS, worse than cancer. The joke goes that there’s good news and bad news: the good news is, it doesn’t kill you. The bad news is, it doesn’t kill you. In light of this, King’s capacity to poke fun at himself is amazing. He makes fun of the embarrassing situations he gets himself into, the things people say to him, his doctors, the endless tests, the endless treatments. His ability to get us to see his situation as ludicrous rather than pitiable or hopeless is beyond praise. And, there’s a critique of the American health care system that’s as devastating as it is accurate.
In the end, he’s a transformed person. Humbly and without fanfare, he passes along the wisdom he’s gleaned from his experience to his readers. I would recommend these pages to anyone with a chronic disease. And whether or not you’re sick, reading the book is like going on holiday from your worries, funnier than most things you’ve ever read. ~