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FEBRUARY 3, 2011
Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the remarkable French memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby is the choice this month for the On-the-Road at Starbucks Book ClubJoin us on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at the Starbucks in Oakwood to discuss the story of this incredible man, who, despite suffering an overwhelming physical calamity which he compared to being stuck in a diving bell, used intellect and joie de vivre to rise like a butterfly.

In 1995, the 44-year-old editor of the world's foremost fashion magazine, Elle, suffered a massive stroke.  He emerged from coma more than a month later to discover he was paralyzed by "locked-in syndrome."  He could think clearly, but the only part of his body he could move was his left eyelid.  He faced a storm of indignities -- he drooled uncontrollably and had to rely on others to wipe his face;  he was catheterized;  and, a dedicated gourmand, he now was being fed brownish fluid through a gastric tube.  Such a calamity would have made most people descend into depression.  Not so Bauby!

Working with an assistant , who devised a special alphabet, Bauby was able to communicate by blinking his eyelid.  His book, which he dictated letter by letter, is a marvelous, compelling account of Bauby's life as a "vegetable," full of humor and devoid of self-pity.  He celebrates against all odds with a tone dry and ironic, very much the droll Frenchman.  In rich detail he imagines himself preparing and tasting flavorful dishes, relying on his "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations."  He ranges through memories, dreams and reflections, keeping his wits sharp.  He imagines travels and adventures.  In other words, he embraces life and inspires the reader as he fights brilliantly against the darkness.

Bauby died only two days after the publication of the book in France.  An immediate success in France, the book has been embraced worldwide and remains a testament to an incredible man. 

Visit the Reading Group Guide provided by Whatcom County (Bellingham, WA) Library System.  For more information about the book and the controversial movie of the book, please try one of the following links:

     New York Times (book review)
     New York University School of Medicine (book review)
     Salon.com  (movie review)
     The Observer  (movie review)



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Category: Book Club

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