"Poetry is still beautiful, taking me with it."
November 13, 2010 7:03 AM   Subscribe

A memoir of living with a brain tumour: "For art critic Tom Lubbock, language has been his life and his livelihood. But in 2008, he developed a lethal brain tumour and was told he would slowly lose control over speech and writing. This is his account of what happens when words slip away."

Articles by Tom Lubbock, from Journalisted.
posted by zarq (11 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
We have a friend with lung cancer. The cancer has spread to her brain and she is scared because occasionally she can't remember her name. So sad.
posted by lukemeister at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2010

Both interesting and touching. As a dyslexic, I can sympathise with some of his early pains with muddling words and inability to articulate his thoughts easily. It gives me some perspective on my brain's own weaknesses.

I like that you chose that one line for the title here. Poetry is still beautiful, taking me with it. It is comforting to know that one can still appreciate beauty, intonation, rhythm once they have lost the capacity to comprehend it. It makes me happy to know that there is bliss for him in his final days, in spite of the undoubtedly heartbreaking challenges.
posted by sunshinesky at 8:15 AM on November 13, 2010

Absolutely fascinating. I have to wonder whether to call it a tragedy or a boon, once moving past the underlying "gonna die" part.

One the "tragedy" side, he slowly lost the aspect of himself he most valued. But on the boon side, the opportunity to, in the end, gain such a profound insight into the workings of language within one's own brain.

No, still a tragedy, I think - Because we will never get to know how the story ends... Yes, of course, he dies; but does "he" end when his language does?

A secret he'll take to the grave.

posted by pla at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm with pla. While an amazing insight into the workings of language and the brain, it is such a heart wrenching loss to see recorded.

I've got a number of language issues, dyslexia being the main one, which are made worse by some medication. Weirdly enough, the worst offender is an anti-seizure med. For example, while typing the first sentence here, I had to look at how sunshinesky spelled dyslexic, then modify the spelling, even though I know how to spell it, and I typed "the bra.." before realizing I meant to type "the mai..". Even typing, I confuse B and M and b and m. Sometimes while lecturing or just talking I lose simple words, like "fund" or "dissolve" and cannot remember them for hours.

I wonder how much we could learn about dyslexia and its associated disorders by studying cases like this. I wonder too how much could be learned about coping strategies for those affected by examining the brain structures involved.

Yet, all of this comes after

posted by strixus at 10:14 AM on November 13, 2010

I found this both insightful and reassuring:
Objectively, from the outside you might say, my life is terrible, unbelievable. And it's true, I hate this. I hate the way I am at the moment. But there is no objective view, I am here, in it, and there is nothing else, and this fact brings with it many things that make it of course easier.
posted by stonepharisee at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

A reassuring insight. My elderly dad has become confused and possibly demented, mainly post-operative effects, but could also be a drug issue, could even be Alzheimer's.

Mr Lubbock's words help reassure me that my dad is still in there, and with patience and love, he can still be reached.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:40 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Resound podcast recently had an episode whose first segment is about a man dealing with a fatal brain tumor from both his perspective and the perspective of his wife. Very powerful on both sides.
posted by kmz at 12:27 PM on November 13, 2010

I think that at the point he made the comment about poetry, he actually was comprehending it, and no doubt thinking this a mystery. But it's probably because poetry is appreciated through completely different pathways than prose, and at that point those other pathways still functioned.

This story is giving me a very heavy Flowers for Algernon vibe.

posted by localroger at 12:52 PM on November 13, 2010

posted by humanfont at 7:40 PM on November 13, 2010

Thank you for posting this, I just finished reading and am in tears.
posted by dbiedny at 9:28 PM on November 13, 2010

posted by painquale at 10:52 AM on November 14, 2010

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