From Richard Freadman:
I’d like to draw list members’ attention to an illness memoir by the late Australian author Hugh Kiernan, entitled Love Letters from Translyvania: A memoir of blood cancer, identity and storytelling (Melbourne: Michael Hanrahan Publishing, 2015). The letters in question are the piles of pathology bills Kiernan had to navigate when he returned from hospital after bruising chemotherapy for Multiple Myeloma. I met Hugh about six years ago when he contacted me for some feedback on early parts of his manuscript. I was very impressed. We became close friends and it was my pleasure to write a short Foreword to the book. When Tom Couser visited Melbourne a few years ago I introduced him to Hugh. The following commendation from Tom appears on the back cover:
Hugh Kiernan’s memoir cycles, tantalisingly but purposefully, among different modes – expository, dramatic, narrative, and descriptive – and sometimes blurs the boundary between fiction and nonfiction. But the effect of the whole is perhaps best described as lyrical, as the prose has the compression and metaphoric openness characteristic of poetry. The result is a narrative that powerfully communicates the disorientation and even self-estrangement attendant on a life-changing and life-threatening, condition. An achievement rare in my experience of illness narrative.
I would add among other things that the book provides an unusually rich and persuasive exploration of the claim – quite common in illness memoir – that life-threatening illness can be life-enhancing, indeed transformative in precious ways, and that Kiernan’s identity story draws deftly but tellingly on his deep interest in Jung. His refutation of Susan Sontag’s skepticism about metaphor in illness discourse is also very well done.
Before he died in February of this year, after living for almost ten years with his condition, Hugh asked me, along with one of his daughters, to be his literary executor. I’m posting this message in order to make his special book more widely known and to let members know that individuals and libraries can order it at www.amazon.com.
Richard Freadman FAHA
Emeritus Professor of English
La Trobe University