cover image Reading and Writing Cancer: How Words Heal

Reading and Writing Cancer: How Words Heal

Susan Gubar. Norton, $26.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-393-24698-8

Part writing manual, part memoir, and part literary and artistic critique, this companion to Gubar’s New York Times column, “Living with Cancer,” would make a valuable addition to any cancer patient’s bookshelf. In stylish and unflinching prose, Gubar (Memoir of a Debulked Woman) illuminates how writing and reading helped her face ovarian cancer, and how they can help others facing similar battles. She dispenses essential writing advice, such as guidelines and prompts for journaling (“I wish I could tell my oncologist...”), alongside her own experiences putting words to her cancer, from responding to online commenters to discussing a treatment’s embarrassing side effects. She also turns her gaze outward, using her decades in academia to put together a robust survey of relevant literature and art. Gubar may not be the first to address the “cancer canon,” but her deft reading and analysis of writers such as Susan Sontag, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Michael Korda put her at the forefront of the field. Writing, Gubar argues, can return agency and dignity to the potentially dehumanizing experience of cancer treatment. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (May)