Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Books Slipping Away

I woke up Monday morning feeling not only totally resistant to work, but to life in general.  This is unusual because this semester, I only work one hour on Mondays and that hour is the Children's Literature class.  Also, I was going to have a pleasant chat with one of the Korean professors about the paper she is writing about Irish poet Eavan Boland.  Bitching about Monday was de rigueur.  I was too susceptible to society's grainy old habits, I decided.

During the Boland part of the conversation, I noticed that my brain seemed to be lagging behind, wandered off somewhere, perhaps picking blueberries, but I attributed it to Monday-ness and stumbled through what I was trying to say.  Then, the professor put her paper aside and asked me about my reading interests.  She asked if I ever read short stories.

"Oh, sure.  I love short stories."


"Well," I said, feeling myself beginning to flail for information again, "I was completely entranced with Raymond Carver for about five years."

"What about now?"

"I like a Canadian writer."  Pause.  "I can't think of her last name.  Her first name is Alice."*

"Have you ever read anything by Willa Cather?"

"Yes, I discovered her last year!  Uh, I read...I read..."

"A Lost Lady?"  She suggested.

"No...but I read something by her.  O Pioneers?"  But I knew that wasn't right.**

"Have you read Toni Morrison?"

"Yes, I read Beloved and The Bluest Eye and Sula...and..."  I couldn't get a grip on that fourth title.***

She brought out a collection of short stories by women and turned to the table of contents.  Something by Louisa May Alcott.  The Yellow Wallpaper.  Paul's Case.  Something by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.  Susan Glaspell.  I was trying to look on, but she was turning the pages too quickly.  The writing was blurry.

"I think Glaspell is a genius," she said.

"Yeah, she is!"  I absolutely could not remember which Susan Glaspell I had read.****

"Perhaps we could read some stories together and discuss them," The professor said.  Exactly what I had been waiting over 7 years for a Korean professor to say to me.  It should have been a brilliant moment, but I had a terrible headache.

"I like Shirley Jackson,"  I said.  "She's really good..."

"Oh no," she said.  "It's twelve o'clock.  Time for your class."

 I went to class.  Talking about why picture books are so important to a child's development was on the syllabus for that day.  I assume that's what we discussed.

 I went back home.  I had to lie down, and fast.  Shivering, I dug out an extra blanket and fell into bed fully clothed except for my shoes.  I immediately got up again to use the bathroom and saw the thermometer in the cabinet.  Hmmm...  My temp usually runs right around 97.  Maybe I'm up to "normal", I thought.


Oh, fever!   I was relieved.  When I couldn't converse intelligently about literature with the professor, I had considered all sorts of possibilities:  Alzheimer's.  A brain-eating virus.  The onset of a stroke.  Insanity.  Sudden and accelerated ageing of the brain.

Long story short, I went to bed and slept nonstop except for short intervals for the next 28 hours.  At the end of that time, the fever had broken and I had all my literary stuff back again and I felt good.

My mom knows with certainty when she's feverish because her big toe hurts as if someone's trying to pull it off with a wrench and she also dreams that wild horses are trying to stomp her to death in an outdoor privy.  I've always admired the drama and robustness of her warning.  It sounds like something that would herald oncoming illness for Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Nature hardly ever gives me a heads-up, or if it does, I'm too dense or it's too subtle.  Things like illness and pregnancy (that's another story) tend to whack me on the back of my unsuspecting head.  I'm going to remember this, though.  The next time authors and titles slip away from me like they've been oiled, I'll know why, and I won't need a thermometer.

*Alice Munro
**My Antonia
***Song of Solomon
****Supressed Desires, Trifles


Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

That's awful! I hope you're feeling completely better. I'm always paranoid about Alzheimer's. I watched my grandpa go through that and I can't imagine many things worse than losing your mind piece by piece. I'm glad it was just a fever!

fantsmacle said...

Whao, that conversation is taken from my life. I reread a PKD book this winter because I hadn't realized I read it a couple of years ago. Too many books...

Anonymous said...

I can never remember authors and titles! And I almost never have a fever, so I have no excuse other than a crappy memory.

Hope you're feeling better after all that rest!

Care said...

Hope you are feeling better! I was worried.

Unruly Reader said...

While your mother's early warning signals are much clearer, at least you've identified your own...