From Amazon’s review/description:
We’ve all got our idiosyncrasies when it comes to writing–a special chair we have to sit in, a certain kind of yellow paper we absolutely must use. To create this tremendously affecting memoir, Jean-Dominique Bauby used the only tool available to him–his left eye–with which he blinked out its short chapters, letter by letter. Two years ago, Bauby, then the 43-year-old editor-in-chief of Elle France, suffered a rare stroke to the brain stem; only his left eye and brain escaped damage. Rather than accept his “locked in” situation as a kind of death, Bauby ignited a fire of the imagination under himself and lived his last days–he died two days after the French publication of this slim volume–spiritually unfettered. In these pages Bauby journeys to exotic places he has and has not been, serving himself delectable gourmet meals along the way (surprise: everything’s ripe and nothing burns). In the simplest of terms he describes how it feels to see reflected in a window “the head of a man who seemed to have emerged from a vat of formaldehyde.”
I was a bit hesitant to read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly at first. Not because I’d heard anything negative about it, but because my hypochondria tends to make my chest tighten up with anxiety while reading/watching anything about any sort of medical or health problem or situation. But while I was lightly skimming the book in the book store, I realized this memoir did not seem to dwell on details of his condition (not to say that isn’t in there at all), but was more of a reflection on life and how we can choose to live it.
I’m so glad I read this book. It’s an inspirational and haunting story that reminds the reader of all the important perspectives on life and death that we all know but don’t think about very much. The overall theme is common – live each day of your life to its fullest because you never know which day will be your last. But the way it’s presented is completely unique. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of those rare gems of a memoir that is thoughtful and inspirational without being cheesy, contrived, cliche, or sounding like something we’ve heard often or a Chicken Soup book.
It’s short, which is not shocking since the entire thing was written by Bauby blinking out the letters and words with his left eye to a transcriber. It’s divided up into very short sections, and he shares a different thought or experience in each. It makes the book incredibly accessible. I borrowed the copy I read from a friend, but plan on buying my own copy soon so I can pick it up often and open it up anytime and read a random section.
The same friend also watched and loved the film adaptation. I’m going to try to watch it, but I need to wait until I’m in the right mood. What was inspirational and unique in the book seems like it could be intimidating and claustrophobic in a film. But I do want to see it, and the film apparently gives the viewer some relief from the condition with flashbacks of Bauby’s life before the stroke.
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