Sunday, February 3, 2008

For The Love Of Writing.

Writing in itself is a remarkable experience. It is an act of discovery and of joy, and it gives meaning to thoughts, feelings, hopes and life. And writing a book is an even more impressive achievement - a labour of love that can take months, maybe even years. But what if we are lacking in the only tools we have for writing - our hands?

Imagine the severe limitations, the frustrations of being unable to express ourself in print if we are unable to use our hands to write those words that are crying to be written. But the human mind is, in fact, boundless, and here are some inspirational examples of authors who, through sheer determination and grit, transcended their physical limitations and produced brilliant works of literature :

1. The Diving Bell And The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby.
About the author : Jean-Dominique Bauby was a prominent French journalist and editor of French Elle when he suffered a massive stroke in Dec 1995 at the age of 43. When he regained consciousness 20 days later, he was completely paralysed except for being able to move only his left eyelid.

Writing Method : To describe Bauby's method of writing as painstaking is a gross understatement as he literally wrote the 139-page book letter by letter. He would compose whole paragraphs in his mind, editing and memorising sentences for hours, got someone to recite the alphabet and he would blink when the letter he required was reached.

His Book : The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is a poignant memoir about living with Locked-In syndrome, a neurological disorder in which a person is of sound mind but almost completely paralysed. An extraordinary book that paints a luminous portrait of a mind dancing within a frozen body, it was an international bestseller and sold 150,000 copies in its first week of publication in France.

Wistful, witty and written with considerable humor, it is a remarkable tribute to the majesty of the human spirit. The book was also made into a movie in 2007 by American director, Julian Schnabel and won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 65th Golden Globe Awards.

Sadly, Jean-Dominique Bauby passed away two days after the book's release at the age of 44.

2. My Left Foot by Christy Brown.
About The Author : Christy Brown is an Irish poet and painter who was born with cerebral palsy. As a child, he was incapable of voluntary movements and despite the advice of the medical community to institutionalize him, his mother remained supportive of him. Remarkably, at the age of five, he grab a piece of chalk with his left foot and scrawled a mark - the letter "A"- on the floor, stunning his family in the process.

Writing Method : As suggested by the title of his autobiography, he used his left foot to write, type and even paint, but was also helped by his brothers, who recorded as he dictated.

His Book : Imprisoned in a world all his own and seemingly without any means to communicate, My Left Foot is an inspiring account of Brown's life and the struggles he had to overcome. Published in 1954, when Christy Brown was 22, it is a triumphant story of his battle to learn to read, write and paint, all with the aid of his left foot, and his yearning for acceptance and fulfillment. Giving readers a first-hand account of what it is like to be a person with severe cerebral palsy, My Left Foot is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Christy Brown passed away in 1981 at the age of 49 and his book was adapted into a movie, with Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown, in 1989.

3. A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking.
About The Author : Recognised as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicist in history, Stephen Hawking was stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease when he was a 21-year-old graduate student at Cambridge University. He subsequently lost the use of his limbs and voice, and is now almost completely paralysed.

Writing Method : Using a special infra-red device which detects blinks from his eyes, he communicates with the computer attached to his wheelchair, allowing him to "type". Through an electronic voice synthesizer attached to the computer system, it also allows him to "speak".

The Book : A Brief History of Time, published in 1988, was an iconic piece of science writing which has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and was on the London Sunday Times bestseller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks. Using a minimum of technical jargon, Hawking helps the average man understand highly complex topics like the origin and nature of the Universe, black holes and gravity with vivid clarity.

*Related posts :
- Poetry & The Innocence of Children
- Of Old Book Stores & Literary Gems.


Keli said...

I enjoy reading about people who defy expectations with their sheer grit and determination. They take communication to a very high level.
I've read your first two picks; your reviews are accurate. These people make our excuses in delaying doing what we love or should be doing appear very paltry.

My Den said...

Christy Brown and Jean-Dominque Bauby determination truly amazes me and their need to tell and share their stories, despite their handicaps, are testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Reading them honestly touched me. Best.