Jimmy Breslin was a book author and columnist for various New York newspapers, and a widely-celebrated writer. I just finished reading his memoir titled “I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me,” from 1996. Mr. Breslin discovered he had a brain aneurysm. It was located in a particularly dangerous spot and would require the skills of the best neurosurgeon in the country to repair it.
This book details the discovery of that aneurysm, the preparation for surgery, detail about the surgery, and recovery. And that tale is woven into various stories from his life. It’s a complex bit of writing and beautifully done. I thought I’d share a paragraph with you, from page 217, near the end:
“And none of this, even the depressing colors of anything I thought of, had much to do with writing. Thoughts flash and don’t need order. Words seep, and must be put in alignments that are painful to write. I find anything from a postcard to a novel causes me to freeze from mind to hand. The effort to get a couple of sentences into the hand could take hours and hours. I had these streaks of thought, notion, the start of an idea of something to write. I looked for the dust in the air, for that is where words live, tumbling lazily, remaining just out of reach, and staying there, staying, staying, staying, until something, an unseen waft of air, causes them to drift right up to your reach, gather into sentences, one sentence, two sentences, that’s all you need to get started. But now in this hospital room my eyes could find no dust.”
His powers of creation were not affected by the surgery, but at that moment he was singularly uninspired. But he was very good at recognizing a great story. Breslin was assigned to report of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy but he observed that every other reporter was fiercely competing for the same story. Breslin went to Arlington National Cemetery and noticed the gravediggers at work. He wrote his column about JFK, all right, but it was from the perspective of those who buried him. That is originality!
Mr. Breslin was born in 1928 and died in 2017. He won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1986.
If interested, you can buy his book on Amazon or elsewhere for a few bucks. It’s a good read.