cover image The Night-Side: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & the Illness Experience

The Night-Side: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & the Illness Experience

Floyd Skloot. Story Line Press, $12 (208pp) ISBN 978-1-885266-31-6

Anyone who writes about illness must quote Illness as Metaphor, and Skloot (Summer Blue) uses Susan Sontag's book for both the title and the epigraph: ""Illness is the night-side of life,"" says Sontag. ""Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick."" Before he got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in 1988, Skloot was, as he often reiterates, firmly a citizen of the former: a runner ""with a corkboard of ribbons"" and without ""an ounce of fat,"" he became habitually weak, forgetful, flu-ish. He quit his job as a ""Senior Public Policy Analyst for a diversified energy corporation"" but continued to work on his writing, turning out these essays, many of which have appeared in magazines such as The Antioch Review, Threepenny Review and even JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. One, which appeared in The Best American Essays of 1993, is an affecting description of life with a brain that is no longer agile. Two other early pieces are also worthwhile: his musings on being a research subject (""Here I am with an illness that too many people already suspect as being psychosomatic; what happens if I get better during the clinical trial and it turns out I've been getting the placebo?"") and on his memories of his mother's carefully packaged apartment, in which everything was embalmed in Saran Wrap. The pieces that work best approach the illness indirectly. Without a larger philosophy or dry humor (his sections on alternative medicine compare badly with Spalding Gray's), Skloot's writing on his illness, especially one received with so little sympathy by the general public, seems self-indulgent. (July)