Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

This is not the first time lately that I have watched the film adaptation of a book and later purchased and read the book. I did this same thing with Notes on a Scandal, which I loved. In fact, I am often so intrigued when I like the movie that I will purchase the book and devour it within the next few days after viewing the film.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly was written by French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby after he suffered a massive stroke in late 1995. This stroke, as many of you I'm certain are aware, left Bauby in a state referred to as "locked in syndrome." Basically, his brain suffered no damage, but his body was completely paralyzed. Bauby's only means of communication was with the blinking of his left eye. Through the help of a speech therapist, who is wonderfully portrayed in the film, Bauby learns to communicate one letter at a time with his left eye. It is through these means of communication, that show unbelievable resolve, that Bauby creates The Diving Bell.

As a former vocational rehabilitation counselor, I had numerous clients with severe disabilities. These disabilities included paralysis, brain damage, and amputation. Due to my experiences, I have an interest in memoirs and films that portray the struggles and events in the lives of such individuals. Bauby's memoir is unlike any other I have read from a disabled or non-disabled person. Perhaps it is because of his inability to fully control the narrative on a grand scale and the probable strain it caused to spell out every word, the book is a collection of short descriptions of his life both post- and pre-incident.

One of the saddest parts occurs in the section titled "Paris." Bauby describes being taken by ambulance to a hospital in Paris from his usual room at Berck. The ambulance passes buildings he recognizes, including the building he worked in while at Elle. He writes, "I shed a few tears as we passed the corner cafe where I used to drop in for a bite. I can weep quite discreetly. People think my eye is watering" (p. 78).

When I purchased this book, the cashier stated, "Oh! This is the best book ever written." I cannot agree with her that there are no better books, but I can definitely recommend The Diving Bell and the Butterfly for its uniqueness and beauty and simply for how it was created. I can also understand one's enthusiasm for the book.


At 4.6.08 , Blogger Jeane said...

I cannot imagine living with such great misfortune- and then having the patience and fortitude to learn to communicate by blinking one eye! It sounds like a book everyone should read.

At 10.6.08 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", but the movie I'd rather see is "My Stroke of Insight", which is the amazing bestselling book by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor. It is an incredible story and there's a happy ending. She was a 37 year old Harvard brain scientist who had a stroke in the left half of her brain. The story is about how she fully recovered, what she learned and experienced, and it teaches a lot about how to live a better life. Her TEDTalk at TED dot com is fantastic too. It's been spread online millions of times and you'll see why!

At 10.6.08 , Blogger stacy said...

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's story sounds fascinating. I'll have to check it out.

At 10.6.08 , Anonymous Martha said...

What a coincidence! I, too, am a former vocational rehabilitation counselor. I worked for the State of California's Department of Rehabilitation Program. I graduated from San Jose State's MLIS program in 2007. Currently I work the reference desk, part-time, at a public library in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I'm enjoying your blog very much, and your MySpace page, as well! Best wishes!

At 12.6.08 , Blogger stacy said...

For Martha - I cannot believe we were both counselors and now librarians! That is definitely quite a coincidence. I worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for a private firm. Best of luck in your library career! Santa Fe must be a nice place to work.


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