cover image Losing Music: A Memoir

Losing Music: A Memoir

John Cotter. Milkweed, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-571-31194-8

In this bracing memoir, essayist Cotter (Under the Small Lights) recounts his experience with an incurable inner ear disorder. In his early 30s, Cotter began having problems with his hearing, and what started as a ringing in his ears became “a jet-engine roar” accompanied by debilitating bouts of vertigo. Seeking a diagnosis and treatment, he traveled across the country to meet with specialists and underwent a battery of tests; the uncertainty and fear surrounding his mysterious condition led Cotter to contemplate suicide, which, he reasoned, “may be a cruelty to those around me, but I saw it as a kindness.” Eventually, he was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease and struggled to accept that his hearing loss could be permanent. But with his caring spouse and a passion for the arts, Cotter learned how to adapt to his new life. Cotter is frank about the “shock” of being “someone in a position of such social privilege to find himself falling into any amount of marginalization,” and he captures the frustration of trying to communicate with doctors: “Medical personnel are very good at explaining things in either the simplest or the most complex possible terms, but little in between.” The result is a poignant reflection on disability. (Apr.)