A Memoir of Recovery
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 Prolific novelist and critic Sheed recounts his winning battles with polio, cancer, and what he calls ``addiction- depression'' in this lucid, gently humorous memoir. Like William Styron, Sheed (My Life as a Fan, 1993, etc.) suffered clinical depression instigated by a dependence on alcohol (and, in Sheed's case, pills). Unlike Darkness Visible, Styron's harrowing account of the descent into madness, Sheed's reckoning emphasizes recovery more than illness--the joyful daylight of health after the dark night of disease. For Sheed, a childhood- polio survivor who contends that ``suffering carries its own antidote,'' the battle royal is against addiction and depression; in comparison, cancer and polio seem mere tests of his considerable, gruff will. That will and his healthy respect for the strength ordinary mortals summon in life-threatening circumstances are severely tried by attempts to kick sleeping pills. Sheed chafes at the one-disease-fits-all absolutism and AA platitudes espoused at a Betty Fordstyle rehab center. A man of redoubtable bonhomie, he rejects the call to abandon the old, good life--a wise choice, since desire to recapture that joie de vivre (sans booze and pills) is his strongest motivation for recovering. Seeking a ``simple physical explanation'' for the deterioration of mind and body, Sheed finds only ``airy-fairy'' talk on his rounds of MDs and shrinks. The appalling ignorance and indifference he encounters from doctors (he avoids prostate surgery only after a second opinion pinpoints Prozac as the source of a bladder problem; the first doctor never bothered to ask about medication) push Sheed to fashion his own vocabulary for describing his illness. Along the way he decries the culture of victimization America embraces, replacing it with a vision of ordinary people capable of ``latent heroism.'' Sheed's plainspoken, self-deprecating memoir forges a realistic but hopeful record of addiction-depression's long arc that may well serve those suffering from it.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-671-79215-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995


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by Wilfrid Sheed
NonfictionMY LIFE AS A FAN by Wilfrid Sheed
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