Illness in Fiction

One day I will get back to my critical study of “caregivers in fiction.” Meantime, I’m intrigued by Anita Sethi’s recent post over at the Guardian‘s book blog about “fiction’s best depictions of the sick.”

Let’s bring the discussion over here: Which fictional depictions of illness have you found most powerful, and why? I’ll begin with one of my own all-time favorites (this sounds kind of morbid, as I write it): Lorrie Moore’s short story, “People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk.”

Not too long ago I tried (but failed) to find this story’s full text online. But it’s not too hard to find elsewhere–just look in Moore’s Birds of America volume, or in the appropriate issue of The New Yorker, or in any of the “best of” anthologies that have republished it.

This tale of a baby’s battle with kidney cancer–and his mother’s way(s) of dealing with it–amazes me every time I reread it. I marvel at the fact that I can smile as I read. I marvel at the way Moore brings humor–if a bitter/very dry humor–into this most dreadful subject.

(I’m really missing having all my books here with me in New York–I’ve stored way too many of them back in Massachusetts. This would be the perfect time for a quotation to help you see exactly what I’m talking about. I’m sorry!)

What about the rest of you? Which readings would you recommend here?

And here’s a special offer: The first person who can find and post a legitimate link to the full text of the aforementioned Lorrie Moore story for the rest of us to read online will receive his/her choice of any e-book from our library. Ready, set, surf!

2 thoughts on “Illness in Fiction

  1. Amy says:

    Here it is:

    You’ll have to scroll at bit down the page to get to it.

    That’s some story. While searching for it, I found several mentions of it as the perfect short story. I don’t know enough about short stories to say perfect, but I know it will stay with me for a long long time. Thanks for sharing this, Erika!

  2. ERIKA DREIFUS says:

    We have a winner! Thank you, Amy, for locating the story online, and thank you also for your comments. I will e-mail you privately to find out which e-book you’ve selected!

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