Health & Beauty

New Books Attempt to Provide Shelter From the Storm of Dementia

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She cites Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” to point out how onerous it’s to dislodge households from their accustomed roles; Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” (its lawyer-narrator’s efforts to awaken the protagonist “disturbingly acquainted to caregivers”); and Samuel Beckett’s “Ready for Godot” to spotlight the significance of “the acquainted rhythms and inflections of dialog” that may “coax a dementia affected person again to a actuality they as soon as shared with somebody.” For my 87-year-old mom, a musician, turns of phrase set to easy tunes have proved significantly sturdy.

When Bayley, who died in 2015, wrote “Elegy” — and a sequel, “Iris and Her Pals” — some critics castigated him for invasion of privateness, a priority that will now appear quaint, when a couple of within the dementia area even have TikTok accounts with millions of followers dedicated to sufferers’ progress (or, much less rosily, regress). MY FATHER’S BRAIN, by Sandeep Jauhar (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 256 pp., $28) is an interesting combination of the medical and the non-public. Jauhar, a heart specialist who has contributed to The New York Occasions, writes frankly about his issue separating out filial feeling when confronting his father’s situation. He too grasps on the liberal arts for insights: King Lear’s cry of “Who’s it that may inform me who I’m?”; Shakespeare’s “melancholy Jaques” in “As You Like It”; Struldbruggs of “Gulliver’s Travels,” whose writer, Jauhar writes, makes “a transparent nod to hippocampal degeneration.”

In one of many e book’s transcendent moments, he discovers a number of copies of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Letters of Saint Augustine,” a poem his hard-working father cherished, within the piles of his examine. (“The heights by nice males reached and saved/Weren’t attained by sudden flight/However they, whereas their companions slept, Have been toiling upward within the night time.”)

As poetry does, dementia calls for that its viewers, skittering alongside impatiently in every day life, pause and be — one other loathsome phrase — current; alert to new associations, immune to outdated grievances. It’s a thriller, and a saga, a tragedy with glimmers of comedy that has impressed a minimum of one nice trendy play: Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery,” which in its 2018 revival showcased the good Elaine Might.

Till there’s a tablet to definitively forestall the fog, what can one say however let there be literature?