Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On Being Ill

"On Being Ill" is one of the  classics of caregiving and illness written by Virginia Woolf. It has  just been reissued by Paris Press in Massachusetts, and perhaps it is coming now as a gift to our Boomer demographic. Paris Press publishes works by women which have not received adequate recognition. 

"On Being Ill" is a long essay originally published in 1930 which examines the spiritual, physical, emotional and familial aspects of illness in precise, marvelous language. In this new edition Woolf’s essay is accompanied by another essay, “Notes from Sick Rooms,” written by Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen in 1883.

Stephen’s writing is also stirring but practical as well. She offers instructions on pillows, baths, bed coverings and feeding the ill. Separating the two essays is Mark Hussey’s introduction to Woolf’s mother. And a fourth compelling piece in this book is the personal note from doctor Rita Charon, who founded and directs the Columbia University’s Program of Narrative Medicine.  

This slim book combines beautiful writing, history, literature and cultural history as well. It would be a wonderful gift for anyone in healthcare or contemplating a career in medicine, nursing or any aspect of healthcare, and yes, for all of us 50 and over who should be thinking about how we are going to be when we are being ill.

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