A Defense of “Like,” in Praise of Essex, and a Report on Lyme
Truly there is no end to the making of many books. According to the Associate of American Publishers, book industry revenue is up by 6.9% in the first six months of 2019 compared to last year. And Eli Gottlieb praises Italian book festivals, though he notes the strange fact that Italians read less than anyone else in Europe: “In this light, the country’s literary and music festivals are probably best thought of as a 21st-century variant of the ancient Roman tradition of bread and circuses, drawing an elegantly crafted curtain over the nation’s precarious cultural/economic affairs. But they have a subtler function as well. In the words of Italian cultural critic Claudio Giunta, ‘Italians have a collective sense of guilt. They love to eat and talk, but it’s dinned into them from birth that they’re the inheritors of a great culture and this past weighs on them. These festivals function as alibis of a sort, in which they can literally have their cake and eat it, too.’”
In other news: Scholars discover unknown John Locke manuscript in St. John’s Greenfield Library: “It was a unique find; in the world of Locke scholarship, there is a fairly definitive online bibliography of more than 8,000 of the philosopher’s works, from books and treatises to notes and letters. The Reasons for tolerateing Papists manuscript was not among them. ‘It was amazing because it was obviously a Locke manuscript. There was no mistake about that. St. John’s was in possession of a very rare item even by the standards of major U.S. libraries . . . And the content was really, really interesting.’”
Joseph Loconte reviews James Como’s C. S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction: “Como’s unlikely achievement is to deliver a brief (under 200 pages) yet compelling literary survey of Lewis’s works, which include over 40 books, 200 essays, 150 poems, short stories, a diary, and three volumes of letters.”
A defense of “like”: “Like, then, can’t just be used anywhere, but it can still appear in about six different places in our example sentence – so what is it doing? The corpus shows us that an utterance that starts with like always follows on from another utterance. The speaker who starts an utterance with like in this way might be adding their support to what someone else has just said, or emphasising that they really believe something that they have just said themselves.” You know what? Something can make sense and still be annoying.
In praise of Essex: “Gillian Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another tired example of psychogeographical self-indulgence in the mode of Iain Sinclair or Will Self. It is a measured and loving treatment of a slice of England made schizophrenic by the ‘pull and push’ of London.”
Essay of the Day:
We understand very little about Lyme disease, but that’s slowly changing, Meghan O’Rourke reports in The Atlantic:
“In 2012, I was diagnosed with a relatively mild autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yet despite eating carefully and sleeping well, I was having difficulty functioning, which didn’t make sense to my doctor—or to me. Recalling basic words was often challenging. Teaching a poetry class at Princeton, I found myself talking to the students about ‘the season that comes after winter, when flowers grow.’ I was in near-constant pain, as I wrote in an essay for The New Yorker at the time about living with chronic illness. Yet some part of me thought that perhaps this was what everyone in her mid-30s felt. Pain, exhaustion, a leaden mind.
“One chilly December night in 2012, I drove a few colleagues back to Brooklyn after our department holiday party in New Jersey. I looked over at the man sitting next to me—a novelist I’d known for years—and realized that I had no idea who he was. I pondered the problem. I knew I knew him, but who was he? It took an hour to recover the information that he was a friend. At home, I asked my partner, Jim, whether he had ever experienced anything like this. He shook his head. Something was wrong.
“By the following fall, any outing—to teach my class, or to attend a friend’s birthday dinner—could mean days in bed afterward. I hid matters as best I could. Debt piled up as I sought out top-tier physicians (many of whom didn’t take insurance)—a neurologist who diagnosed neuropathy of unclear origin, a rheumatologist who diagnosed ‘unspecified connective-tissue disease’ and gave me steroids and intravenous immunoglobulin infusions. I visited acupuncturists and nutritionists. I saw expensive out-of-network ‘integrative’ doctors (M.D.s who take a holistic approach to health) and was diagnosed with overexhaustion and given IV vitamin drips. Many doctors, I could tell, weren’t sure what to think. Is this all in her head? I felt them wondering. One suggested I see a therapist. ‘We’re all tired,’ another chided me.
“I was a patient of relative privilege who had access to excellent medical care. Even so, I felt terrifyingly alone—until, in the fall of 2013, I found my way to yet another doctor, who had an interest in infectious diseases, and tested me for Lyme. I had grown up on the East Coast, camping and hiking. Over the years, I had pulled many engorged deer ticks off myself. I’d never gotten the classic bull’s-eye rash, but this doctor ordered several Lyme-disease tests anyway; though indeterminate, the results led her to think I might have the infection.”
Poem: Christopher Bakken, “Turning Fifty at the Oracle of Death”
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