alt+library book club: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem.  After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.

By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He explains the joy, and deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father's voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times and of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations," keeping in touch with himself and the life around him.

Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

This book is a lasting testament to his life.

From: B&N.com

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  • Elizabeth H.

    I read the book but can't make it tonight. We're having a sports day at work and I'm competing. Go Team Belize!
    Have fun discussing the book. See you next time!

    June 18

  • Jess

    I have copies on hand at Arcade Library! Either drop in or request a copy through saclibrary.com and I can send it to your nearest branch.

    June 3

  • Bill

    More enveloping than the diving bell of the individual body is the social shell that surrounds the individual and restricts potential. Kathryn Lynch's new autiob. makes clear that the human spirit is nearly indomitable and not as much of the story as the individual such as this retired S.F. cop who prevails in a corrupt but oddly familial system.As San Fran's early woman cop, she expresses her fear that the social strictures have returned and much fewer women than she expected are becoming career police. I want to read more about the victories over our social barriers and fewer about the Everyman's quandary. Hamlet's "mortal coil, after all was less existential and more about from being from a coiling snakepit of a family.

    May 23

  • Rachel Marie P.

    Wish I could go! I already have something on Wednesdays at 7pm.

    May 21

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