There have been times throughout cancer where I have the intellectual capacity of a three-year-old and my attention span is nil. I’ve tired of reading mind numbing glossy mags, yet could not surmount a thick biography or engaging book of history if my life depended on it. Is there hope for a young adult cancer patient beyond feeling like a superficial twit, glued to television and waiting room copies of People Magazine? Yes.
Dixie Cups, AIDS, and Georgia O’keeffe
Letters of The Century 1900-1999 is the perfect book for tired, weak cancer patients who are devoid of short-term memory, but still yearn to get their intellect up. Broken down by decades, the first few pages of each chapter runs a bulleted list of the major cultural, political, and economic events: “The Dixie Cup and electric toaster appear.” “Vermont widow Ida May Fuller receives the first Social Security Check – for $22.54.” “The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after lift off, killing seven astronauts aboard.” The meat of the chapters are comprised of letters that speak to the times of that decade: Profound letters, love letter, irate letters, letters to the editor, apologies, friendships, governmental exchanges. Voices are as wide ranging as Booker T. Washington, Georgia O’Keeffe, Richard Nixon, and the mother of an AIDS patient.
Letters of The Century is a chunky book to tote to chemo, yet in paperback, well worth it. Keep it by your bedside to read slices of history while you are waiting for a wave of nausea to subside or for your Ativan to kick in. It’s the kind of book you can read from beginning to end, or pick pages randomly. Best of all, each letter is only about one-quarter of a page to two pages long. This is history made convenient.