cover image Stroke of Genius: 0

Stroke of Genius: 0

Paul West. Viking Books, $21.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84956-7

This memoir of prize-winning novelist West's (Love's Mansion) bouts with stroke, heart disease, diabetes and migraines is lushly metaphorical, mordant and ultimately moving. The sardonic pun of the title reflects the author's ambivalence: he never fully recovers from the assaults of illness, but his abrupt initiation into the processes that keep the body in motion fascinates him: ``In death's anteroom,'' he writes, ``I was becoming... a stranger to myself, whom I got to know and sometimes to like.'' West delights in the ornate etymologies of medical terminology; his pacemaker is ``the toy that tweaks me''; and the dazzling shows of light that accompany his migraines are ``the silent movie of your brain eyeing itself.'' Though he lashes out at the arrogance of medical professionals and their ``despotic indifference'' to the patient's peace of mind, he offers here largely a survivor's celebration of the durability of his body and soul. (Jan.)