Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

I didn't exactly run out of material to review, just life in general catching up with me. As well as a little bit of laziness, I have to admit. But I figured I might as well review this latest one now as I'm watching the film version as I write this, and reading the book. But first, a rant. I make no secret of the fact that I read the Daily Mail on occasion, and I'll read the Sun if it's lying out and I have nothing better to do. But frequently the random talkspots exhibited in each of these 'papers' doesn't fall so much under the description of opinion pieces as they are useless grumblings of middle-aged men so ignorant of their subject matter and so out of touch with the world that it's a miracle such crap gets published in the first place. Then again, I may be giving the Daily Mail too much credit. I counted at least five typos in today's edition. I don't give the Sun any credit at all. First off, a boiled ham with squinty little eyeballs masquerading as a man named Rod Liddle wrote a sarcastic little spew about how he was going to become disabled so he could avail of the Disability Living Allowance. It was meant to be about people faking illness or pain to claim the allowance and avoid work, but he lost whatever little point he had when he said he wanted to get 'Fibromyalgia, or M.E. Something that makes you a bit peaky for decades." (Something to that affect anyway, the original article has mysteriously disappeared now). The amount of actual fakers on the DLA make up something like 0.8%, which is so insignificant that demonizing the sufferers of a misunderstood illness without considering that it's recognized by the World Health Organization takes some really startling ignorance. That, and sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. Lost on both counts. I heard Rod trying to defend himself on a radio show, in which he called a fibro sufferer a liar because she apparently got one or two statistics wrong (overcompensating?) and insisted that he wasn't attacking disabled people. (I'm totally on your side, you guys! How can you be so stupid as to not see that?)
Truly, this is the face of the disabled's champion. Reports were floating around that because of the bleating in the gutter press about disability cheats that hate crimes against the disabled were increasing. Then that nice Mr Littlejohn of the Daily Mail had to wade in with his two cents about how eight out of ten people on DLA had been found fit for work and that the disabled charity Mencap had 'squealed hilariously' about worries that resentment and hate crimes towards the disabled were on the increase. His point was lost from the very start; the 'fit to work' epidemic is plagued with mistakes, misinformation and outright lies about how capable the people being tested are. And how dare this twit dismiss the very real concerns that disabled people are being attacked! Hate crimes are the very apex of bullying and there's two things that a bully looks for in a victim: something that marks them as different, and vulnerability. The only way to beat a bully is to be tougher than they are in some way, and that's why I suspect these codgers end up getting their drivel published in the gutter press. If they tried it with a respectable publication, someone with a much better way of getting their point across would rip them to shreds. That's if it passed the vetting stage. And now onto my actual review, of a sort. Of the many different ways that you can be ill or disabled, fibromyalgia is one of the most unpleasant and also one of the hardest to describe to people. So, if I have to describe it to someone who knows nothing about it, I think of 'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro and the words come more easily.
In Ishiguro's world, we follow a girl named Kathy as she reminisces about her unusual (to us) life. At first it seems like a rather standard tale of an orphan in a large boarding school with her friends, except that there's an eerie sense that something is off. Slowly we discover that Kathy is a clone, as are her friends, specially bred and raised to provide organs for 'real' people to continue their lives into triple digits. This is accepted as matter-of-fact, and unlike other tales with similar premises they don't fight their fate, they just accept it because it's how they were raised. They don't even question the morality of the situation they're in because they just don't have it in them. Kathy's true story is in the love triangle between herself, her friend Ruth and Tommy. As they get older and closer to making 'donations' (having their organs harvested; death is common after the third, but can happen at any time) Ruth steals Tommy from Kathy and their relationship becomes strained. In the end, Kathy and Tommy do get together, and they make a plea to have their time together extended, but it's futile. Tommy and Ruth both die after three donations, and Kathy is due to start hers at the end of the book. The story is achingly sad. It's told in a wistful, dreamy way by Ishiguro's beautiful prose and it's so subtle that you could miss the big twist regarding the donations quite easily. Great displays of love, rage and passion are fleeting and are mostly replaced by grim acceptance of their fate. Because, as Kathy says, everyone completes eventually. Some just sooner than others. This story could be about fibromyalgia, with a few words changed. Every time a flare-up happens, it takes away a little piece of you and you never get it back. You recover, but never completely. The only thing you can do is live your life while you still have strength enough to live it.

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