July 2006: Book reviews often state that a novel has clearly been written with a possible film adaptation in mind. So I originally included a deliberately crass fantasy cast list, but then removed it; after all, deliberately crass is still crass.
Junior’s name is Callum; as well as yes and no he often
says thank you and an occasional oh, GOD when he’s frustrated.
His walking, unlike his speech, progresses remarkably; in a wheelchair when
he arrives, a few weeks later he’s striding about with a translucent splint
on one leg and a stick clacking on the lino. Not long afterwards he’s
only using the stick to practice his golf swing.
I have a conversation of sorts with him, putting forward suggestions to which he can respond with a yes or no. I think my situation’s hard to imagine; his is just so far removed from normality...I have to admit I’m fascinated. I’m also being nosy, really, but he doesn’t seem to mind; in fact he seems pleased that someone’s taking an interest.
I ask where he’s from; he describes an ellipse on the tabletop.
“Is that London ?”
He then indicates the lower right hand side of the oval.
“Is it in London ?”
Result ! That wasn’t too hard. With a bit more probing I get a clearer picture of his condition’s parameters. What I establish is that he’s lost the use of words – almost. He has no problem understanding speech (even mine) but can’t form sentences himself; he can’t write or type, not for any mechanical reason – his right side wasn’t affected by the stroke that landed him here – but because text simply doesn’t make sense. So you can ask him a question, such as where something is, and if he knows the answer he can take you there or draw a map, but he can’t write or give you any verbal directions. Like, he knows where his bed is, but can’t arrange the words bay one, third from the left.
I deliver my professional verdict: ‘That’s fucked up .”
If Callum can force himself to speak a sequence of phonetic syllables (is that redundant ? Sorry) he then hears them as words and they make sense. His wife’s birthday is coming up. “I luv yoo joo lee,” he repeats as he roams the corridors. “Hap pee birth day.”
Julie looks like Susan Sarandon in The Witches of Eastwick, an explosion of red curls and a slightly mournful expression; which, of course, raises the obvious question of Who’d play you in the film of your life ?
What do I look like ? I expect you’ve formed some sort of image by now, even if it’s just a blank ovoid with glasses. I look like British actor Jude Law in some ways; we have the same number of noses, for example. OK, how about this: If there was a Henry Rollins Muscle Plan, I’d be the before picture in the advert, with a nose bent slightly to starboard. There’s no interesting story, it’s always been like that. There.