SPARE DAYS by Marvin Barrett


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What seems to be heightened is memory. . .bits and pieces drifting up, not all necessarily pleasant."" So Barrett (The Jazz Age, The Years Between, etc.) describes the effects of cancer on his consciousness in this lean, sensitive, reflective book, itself a meld of memory snatches, travel diary, notes on therapy, thoughts on prayer, quotidian events. Barrett developed cancer at the age of 63--a shock; he thought his illness was heart disease. Several shocks, actually--above all, that of jarring loose the past, as memories flood in of other deaths (most prominently that of his brother Eddie, killed 58 years before in an auto accident for which Barrett felt accountable); of the illnesses of friends; of his early spiritual search at a now-defunct Californian community led by charismatic, fiery-bearded Gerald Heard. Alongside the memory sits prayer--""a room next to, if not a doorway into reality""; church; faith: ""that is where the meaning of my sickness and its final cure must lie, in finding and loving God."" Barrett traces this thread through visits to Assisi, Quakers, Jungians, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a Gurdjieff group. Simultaneously, he meets the glittering machines of modern medicine, undergoing surgery, radiation therapy, and, finally a heart attack. He survives: ""I am lying. . .in that lukewarm funny soup that God brewed a billion years ago, waiting to be born. Again."" Something fresh in the outpouring of literature on cancer: a tender, cleareyed look, not at the illness itself, but at how it weaves into the woof of daily life, into the warp of eternal life. A nitty-gritty book suffused with the spirit.

Pub Date: June 16th, 1988
ISBN: 0595092845
Publisher: Arbor House/Morrow