In fulfilling the promise made in his third collection of poetry (My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, 2008, etc.), Guest produces a memoir chronicling the life-altering accident that robbed him of an active childhood.
When the author was 12, he lost control of a bicycle and flipped over the handlebars, breaking both arms and shattering two neck vertebrae. His hospital experience, related in surreal, fever-dream tones, became a harsh amalgam of “catastrophe and convalescence.” Guest was told he had only a slim chance of ever walking again and should resign himself to living indefinitely as a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. Nausea, indigestion and infections mattered little compared to the full-body paralysis that sent him to a rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, where he was fitted into a fiberglass vest and a steel traction “halo” for nine weeks, an alternative therapy that proved ineffective. Befriending 17-year-old Josh and others boosted his self-esteem much more than the “libidinal hazing” of awkward sex-instruction videos that were showcased nightly within the facility. Eventually, nerves healed and partial sensation returned to his extremities, but not before an excruciating neck surgery. Finally returning home, he faced rides on the “short bus,” a string of eccentric assistants and the excitement and challenge of the female sex. Young adulthood was a mixed bag. The author was callously mugged in an elevator yet found true emotional release in crafting volumes of poetry, teaching and blissful physical intimacy. Never mawkish or grim, Guest’s lyrical narrative ability tempers the heft of his experience, but the tender age at which he endured this grueling ordeal resonates on every page.
Inspiring and courageous.