ORDINARY DAYLIGHT: An Artist Comes to Terms With Loss of Sight by Andrew Potok

ORDINARY DAYLIGHT: An Artist Comes to Terms With Loss of Sight

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A robust sanity is the more than ordinary daylight that pervades artist Potok's account of his losing battle with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited eye disease that slowly destroys the light-sensitive cells of the retina. In his mid-forties and still in the no-man's-land between blindness and sight, Potok leaves his home in Plainfield, Vt., to clutch at the straw of a cute by bee stings he had read about in the London Observer. For six months he's treated, threatened, and cajoled by Helga Barnes, a truculent 67-year-old woman with a heavy Middle-European accent. (""Ah, angel, the eyes are cantankerous. They rebel against the treatment. But they can't fight it forever."") For a while, Potok feels his sight is improving, and he sends for his daughter Sarah, who also has inherited the disease, so that she, too, can get stung. Ultimately, he concludes that there is little to the ""cure"" but the power of suggestion--a tremendous force when used to manipulate desperate people. Interwoven with his London experiences are descriptions of his life in Vermont; his Jewish family's escape from Warsaw when he was eight; his mother's success in the fur business in New York while his father sank deeper into depression; and his own experience learning the skills of blindness at St. Paul's Rehabilitation Center in Newton, Mass. Another thread, which finally dominates, is his desire to become a writer as another way of being an artist. When a woman says that something he wrote made her cry, he muses: ""But I was bored with the pathos of my story. I didn't want to make anyone weep. I wanted to make an artful order of my experience."" In this frequently funny, always individual, and never lachrymose narrative, he has done just that.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1980
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston