Illness and disability

Kate Crowcroft on Kylie Maslen's 'Show Me Where It Hurts'

The ABR Podcast
Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Kylie Maslen's début essay collection, Show Me Where It Hurts, is an intimate exploration of living with chronic illness. Maslen describes her own experiences with the invisible illness she has lived with for the last twenty years, delving into its daily reality while incorporating music, literature, television, film, online culture, and more. Kate Crowcroft, who reviews the book in ABR's November issue, describes it as 'essential reading for those of us with the privilege of having a body that behaves itself'.

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Virginia Woolf wrote that when trying to communicate about pain as a sick woman ‘language at once runs dry’. How does one talk about wounds without fetishising their workings, and how in a society where pain is taboo does one speak of it authentically? In Show Me Where it Hurts, writer and journalist Kylie Maslen balances the difficulty of this equation: telling the story of her disability and having that story remain fundamentally unspeakable. The act of telling remains for Maslen ‘a rejection of language’, and yet the thing on the table for those suffering is ‘the desire to make ourselves known’.

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The Dolorimeter

Kate Middleton
Monday, 24 August 2020

Sometime late morning it begins, a root of something that only as it grows do you recognise as pain. You have had coffee, as you do every morning, and now you feel the kind of heaviness that sends you to lie down. At home, the friend who is staying with you, whom you half invited and who may have misinterpreted your keenness for company, notes your early return and approves of your plan to retreat. For both of you it has been a year frantic with change and learning and emotion, and even if it is likely indulgent – so what, you’ve earned the right to call a morning off the books and instead take a heat pack and wish it were night all over again. She even microwaves the heat pack for you. You take it to bed where you think you will read or watch television or luxuriate in some way.

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Caitlin McGregor reviews 'Inferno' by Catherine Cho

Caitlin McGregor
Friday, 19 June 2020

Catherine Cho’s Inferno is the first ‘motherhood memoir’ I have read since reading Maria Tumarkin’s essay ‘Against Motherhood Memoirs’ in Dangerous Ideas About Mothers (2018). The topic of motherhood has been ‘overly melded’ to memoiristic writing, Tumarkin argues; it feels ‘too much like a foregone conclusion’.

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I read this book about a young woman falling into the dislocating world of a puzzling mental illness at a time when the global pandemic was disrupting many people’s equilibrium. I started to wonder: might living through this time of enhanced anxiety encourage empathy towards people who experience extreme anxiety in non-pandemic times? If those living in the ‘kingdom of the well’ (as Susan Sontag puts it) now start to recognise the contingent, temporary, and often accidental nature of well-being, could that trigger a deeper understanding of those who always live with chronic illness or disability?

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Rachel Robertson reviews 'Hearing Maud' by Jessica White

Rachel Robertson
Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Hearing Maud begins and ends with the notion that the narrator’s life has been defined by a pharmakon, an ancient Greek term denoting something that is both poison and cure. This subtle and more complex version of the ‘gift or loss’ dilemma common in disability memoirs avoids oppositional thinking and embraces instead paradox and nuance ...

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2008 Calibre Prize (Winner): 'Reaching One Thousand'

Rachel Robertson
Wednesday, 07 January 2015
I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magic of numbers.
Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
The real world is not given to us, but put to us by way of a riddle.
Albert Einstein

In the kitchen of my mother’s houses there has always been a wooden stand with a ...