Friday, March 28, 2014

Review Me Twice: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Do you ever read a book - particularly a memoir or autobiographical piece - and think, "I don't think I would be friends with this person"? I've had it happen before, and I'm sure it'll happen again, but it happened with this book. I don't think my personality and that of M. Bauby would mesh well. But that doesn't have to be the case for me to enjoy his book.

And I kind of did. Having been a French major, I've read quite a bit of French writing from many different time periods, and there's just sometime distinctly French about a lot of it. This book is written in a very French way. Which is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It makes you feel a little more like you're reading one of the classics, if that makes sense. There's just some combination of word choice, sentence structure, and some abstract sense of how the story is told that just creates this feeling of French-ness in the writing. I'm sorry I can't explain it better than that.

As far as content, I quite enjoyed the stories Bauby tells. I like fresh perspective on the mundane (as long as it doesn't go overboard) so reading about how Bauby saw his room, the beach, the tiny things that are different or difficult or impossible for him that you might never even think of when considering the ramifications of locked-in syndrome... these were very interesting to me. When he goes more into his opinions of things and farther-reaching topics or details of his past... this is where his personality comes out more and I get less interested. But there's a good balance between these things, so I managed to stick with it (it's only 132 pages, divided into small chapters, so it wasn't a particularly daunting task).

I was expecting this book to be a lot more insightful, a lot more touching, a lot more hit you in the gut.  It wasn't any of those things.  Honestly, it wasn't even all that INTERESTING.

Bauby goes off into a lot of tangents, a lot of imaginings and memories, but he does it in such a way that I don't really tune into them.  One minute he's talking about being trapped and watching TV and the next he's talking about walking on the beach and I'm thinking, "I didn't think he could move."  He's made the transition and I didn't follow it because my brain zoned out.

The only thing that really stands out in my mind is when he was taken out with his nurse and an old friend and they were talking about knowing him "before" and "after."

I understand what a labor this must of been for him to write.  I mean, he could only communicate with his left eye.  Imagine communicating a whole book to someone with only the ability to blink.  But the book just wasn't that interesting, wasn't that engaging, and not nearly as inspiring as it was hyped up to be.

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