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Violet Weingarten started this journal in February 1975 when she began chemotherapy for a curious cancer, and this earnest record of her perceptions may remind you of her cautious, slightly bewildered heroines. ""For a while at least, you find yourself living on two levels. . . . You find it hard to make plans. . . . Do you change your life or try to pick up where you left off? I haven't the slightest idea."" But, as her editor notes, she was not Mrs. Beneker; the quizzical novelist pursued her own subtle mood changes and spirals of introspection, writing honestly about feelings of diminishment and confusion. Her family and her work continue to absorb her; she corresponds with poet L. E. Sissman and converses with a doctor who recommends reading Hadrian; and she broods about the lives of those around her, foraging carefully among the untidynesses and small vanities. ""I cannot get used to the me of hospitals, doctors, medications."" And yet the burnished humor that touched her novels also surfaces to relieve the tension. She goes for publicity photos: ""Terrible pictures. I either look like Lillian Hellman, which isn't the same as writing like her, or Alfred Knopf's wife, which is nice but still not me."" Or she immerses herself in the death literature and comes up gasping: ""It's like eating too much chocolate."" Although her decorum never wavers (even her rape dream features a polite Harry Belafonte), she is struggling valiantly; the journal was put aside in April 1976, just when her symptoms intensified three months before her death.' Those who warmed to Weingarten's ladies will find this--her--just as approachable, but her poise and modest glow will appeal as readily to first-time readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1977
Publisher: Knopf