Becoming Literate in Suffering

The Deep Places, Ross Douthat’s tale of living with Lyme disease, reads more like a horror story than a memoir. The burning, flaring pain of his disease is a sort of possession, sending him herky-jerky dancing through his attic. But the treatments to keep his suffering in check are even more unsettling — he relies on a secreted-away, mail-order machine that pulses electricity through his body.

It’s a book that feels a little dangerous to read, like the dusty tome that the protagonist of a ghost story picks up, learning a story of suffering that begins to escape the book and spill into the reader’s life. A small twinge as you shift position while reading might be the first sign of impending illness; you look at your arm, wondering if that freckle was always there or if it might be moving.

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