EXPLODING INTO LIFE by Dorothea Lynch

EXPLODING INTO LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Evocative prose and haunting photographs combined to provide a sensitive exploration of what it means to face one's own mortality and to draw strength and affirmation from the confrontation. Not for the fainthearted, this is a hard-hitting, yet ultimately uplifting look at one of the most feared of modern experiences--trial by cancer. In 1978, Lynch, a 34-year-old poet/journalist/social activist, discovered a lump ""as big as a wad of bubble gum"" in her left breast; it was diagnosed as cancerous. Lynch underwent surgery and the ritual of chemotherapy treatment with its attendant horrors. All the while, she maintained a diary, recording her fears and frustrations, her resentments and revelations. In the meantime, Lynch's longtime friend and lover, Eugene Richards, recorded Dorothea's day-to-day progress on film. Richards' unflinching photographs underscore the text in images that are sometimes painful--Dorothea huddled in the bathroom, racked with nausea after her chemotherapy treatment--sometimes touchingly lighthearted--Dorothea holding up a tee shirt emblazoned with the word ""Amazon"" after her breast was removed. Despite their intimacy, there is no sense of voyeurism about the photographs. They are, rather, a testimonial to the support and love of two extraordinary individuals facing the departure of one of them. Released from the hospital, Lynch continued to visit the wards, viewing and comforting the cancer patients who remained behind. Eventually these visits were forbidden by medical authorities, and Lynch and Richards were devastated and resentful. The malignancy recurred in time and, her life ebbing, her steroid-clouded mind ""wheeling around like a pinwheel,"" Lynch wrote less and less in her journal. These entries, by their brevity, add to the poignancy of the narrative. ""I matter,"" Lynch wrote: near the end, wanting, she said, to shout it to the world or, falling that, to whisper to the budding plants in her early spring garden. Dorothea Lynch did not win her battle, but she left behind a document that celebrates what it is to be alive, to be loved, to be, in short, human. And in his 62 photographs, Richards has provided a fitting visual counterpoint to a powerful tale of courage and hope.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Aperture