Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.
One Hundred Names For Love: A Stroke, A Marriage, And The Language Of Healing
A Memoir by: Diane Ackerman
Published by: W. W. Norton and Company, 2012 Literary Award: National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee for Autobiography (2011)
ISBN: 039307241X (ISBN13: 9780393072419). Initially Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Eventually bought my own copy. Book Photos taken by me.
This was one of our book club picks which, thankfully, also fits into our current reading theme as we explore illnesses, the experience of being unwell, or portrayal of various abilities in literature.
This memoir moved me with its fearless embracing of vulnerability, the painful teasing out of uncertainties to reveal unarticulated truths, and the capacity of the human spirit to endure a tremendous amount of pain and rise from it regardless.
Diane Ackerman and Paul West are a literary couple. They built an entire life around words which served as the very foundation of a romance that began when Paul was Diane’s professor in the university, and which evolved into a lifelong partnership that found its common ground in books read, delicately worded phrases, utterances that convey the ever-changing subtleties of emotions of people in love. What happens, then, when the words are gone? Paul West suffered a massive stroke that left him aphasic: while it is clear what he wants to say in his mind, the words simply won’t come – or are lost in the myriad maze of the non-functioning parts of his brain. The way he eventually described it, as found in the latter part of the memoir, is as such:
Once again, I am making use of my favourite app, Typorama, to capture those instances of luminous beauty articulated so eloquently by Diane. Rather than simply write a traditional review (which we hardly ever do here at GatheringBooks, anyway), I would rather that her words speak to you and compel you to find your own copy of the book.
I believe that what made me fall in love with this book is how much it pays tribute to the power of words to transform one’s being. I can not understand how there are people who can be so dismissive of words – when I feel that they are more real than anything else. It is what shapes consciousness and ultimately fashions things into being. It could produce a visceral reaction that either paralyzes the reader or galvanizes one into action. As Ackerman noted:
Or this one:
Yet over and above this evident passion for the written word – is the abiding love that Paul and Diane share, a marriage whose fabric is textured by letters:
From a medical standpoint, it is also a phenomenal look into a brilliant mind who thinks differently; hence, the usual rudimentary language lessons as commonly provided to aphasic patients may not necessarily apply – something which Diane picked up on and did something about. It was also poignant how despite the absence of words – the couple found a way to derive meaning from each other’s togetherness:
This is a book for someone who has loved and has been cherished too by another, it is a story for bibliophiles who know that the weight of words can be compared to that of the brightest jewel in the world, it is a book that celebrates a rediscovery of that which is lost, yet found again. This one will stay with me for a very long time.