Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

What a lovely name for a book: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Wish I could say I enjoyed the true story as much as I liked the name. The author, Jean-Dominque Bauby had a stroke at 43 that left him a quadrapaliegic. His brain stem was damaged and he could only blink his left eye. He learned to communicate by having guests recite the alphabet, not ABC but in order of the frequency of usage in French. "E-S-A-R...", blink, and thus the first letter of the word Bauby wants to "say" is R. He wrote his book in this manner.

The last sentence of the book is: "I'll be off now." Two days after the French publication of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", he died. It was his book I had started reading when the postcards took a nosedive on the floor, and I began wondering if Bauby's spirit wanted to let me know he was still around.

During a visit to the medical center's rehabilitation room he mentions "...a vagrant whose foot was somehow amputated by a subway train." He says, "I would like to be part of all this hilarity, but as soon as I direct my one eye toward them, the young man, the grandmother, and the homeless man turn away, feeling the sudden need to study the ceiling smoke detector." Homeless always equals vagrant, eh. 2/1/09

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