Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing

Emily Gould writes:

At some point in his mid-forties, the novelist Tim Parks developed a terrible pain, near-constant and located in embarrassing places: his lower abdomen and crotch. ‘I had quite a repertoire of pains at this point: a general smouldering tension throughout the abdomen, a sharp jab in the perineum, an electric shock darting down the inside of the thighs, an ache in the small of the back, a shivery twinge in the penis itself.’ He eventually overcame his chronic ache by practising Buddhist Vipassana meditation, but his memoir’s first 215 pages are devoted to the agonising specifics, complete with diagrams, of his futile search for a medical diagnosis. He tries repeatedly to ignore the pain and go on with his ordinary life, even as his mysterious condition prevents him from thinking for very long about anything other than the ‘lump of hot lava’ in his belly.

(LRB 2 August 2012)

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