One March morning, writer Floyd Skloot was inexplicably struck by an attack of unrelenting vertigo that ended 138 days later as suddenly as it had begun. With body and world askew, everything familiar had transformed. Nothing was ever still. Revertigo is Skloot?s account of that unceasingly vertiginous period, told in an inspired and appropriately off-kilter form.
            This intimate memoir?tenuous, shifting, sometimes...

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Revertigo: An Off-Kilter Memoir

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One March morning, writer Floyd Skloot was inexplicably struck by an attack of unrelenting vertigo that ended 138 days later as suddenly as it had begun. With body and world askew, everything familiar had transformed. Nothing was ever still. Revertigo is Skloot’s account of that unceasingly vertiginous period, told in an inspired and appropriately off-kilter form.
            This intimate memoir—tenuous, shifting, sometimes humorous—demonstrates Skloot’s considerable literary skill honed as an award-winning essayist, memoirist, novelist, and poet. His recollections of a strange, spinning world prompt further musings on the forces of uncertainty, change, and displacement that have shaped him from childhood to late middle age, repeatedly knocking him awry, realigning his hopes and plans, even his perceptions. From the volatile forces of his mercurial, shape-shifting early years to his obsession with reading, acting, and writing, from the attack of vertigo to a trio of postvertigo (but nevertheless dizzying) journeys to Spain and England, and even to a place known only in his mother’s unhinged fantasies, Skloot makes sense of a life’s phantasmagoric unpredictability.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1988 a viral attack to Skloot's brain left him walking with a cane for 15 years and eventually led to vertigo caused by intercranial hypertension. This collection of essays, many of which have already been published, explore ideas of physical and mental balance while moving through Skloot's childhood in Long Island, his new life in Portland, Ore., and his recent travels to Europe. While physical balance plays a role in some tales, it is the search for intellectual and emotional equilibrium that drives this work. His efforts to find the connection between such divergent topics as The King and I and his parents' relationship, or old standards and an MRI exam, create literary adventures that combining analysis and humor which seem destined to spin out of control but never do. With wide-ranging topics such as theater, medicine, travel, and cooking Skloot's prose jumps from the page Whether he is describing nature ("But like an echo of sunlight, otherworldly bright yellow lichen flourished) or a dream about Nabokov dancing ("… he moved in waltz time when the music I heard was definitely samba.", his comparisons are poetic. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“A sophisticated yet highly entertaining example of how memoir should serve us.”—Ron Slate, author of Incentive of the Maggot, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry 

“A beautifully written, moving account. Who would have imagined that a memoir exploring months of extreme vertigo and decades of neurological turbulence would be filled with so much joy and optimism? This gentle, wise, and perceptive memoir never fails to surprise.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire

Kirkus Reviews
A wide-ranging collection of literary essays in the guise of a memoir. "At the center of [this book]," writes prolific poet, novelist and essayist Skloot (The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life, 2008), "is an attack of unrelenting vertigo that began—out of nowhere—on the morning of March 27, 2009, and ended on the evening of August 12, 2009, as suddenly as it had begun. Those 138 days seemed so anomalous, such a weird and isolated period in my life." Well, yes and no. As it turns out, a viral attack in the brain some two decades earlier might well have presaged the vertigo, and some hip problems the author later suffered initially seemed equally out of the blue. Yet less than half of these essays (most previously published though often revised here) deal specifically with issues of health and disorientation, and some of the best—"Senior Speech," about the stigma of speaking Brooklynese, and "The Bottom Shelf: On Novels I Keep Trying and Failing to Read" (by Styron, Bellow, Mann et al.)—work better as stand-alone pieces than in contributing to a larger thematic whole. Perhaps best of all is "Anniversary Fever," which combines Skloot's deep appreciation for poetry (and T.S. Eliot in particular) with a sense of how "the marking of anniversaries…helps me find order in a world that can be snarled and chaotic for anyone, not just for the brain damaged, or to find harmony in the jangle and dissonance of experience." More than once, he shows a father's pride in the success of daughter Rebecca's best-selling The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: "I'll admit to having twenty-seven foreign and five American editions." At the age of 66, the author finds connections among these pieces that are stronger than those readers might discover.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299299507
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 3/17/2014
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Floyd Skloot

Floyd Skloot is a creative nonfiction writer, essayist, poet, and novelist who lives in Portland, Oregon, and Chicago, Illinois. He is the recipient of many awards, including three Pushcart Prizes and the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction. His writing has appeared in such distinguished magazines as the New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Poetry, and American Scholar, and his eighteen books include The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer’s Life. In 2010, Poets & Writers named him among “50 of the Most Inspiring Authors in the World.”

Good To Know

"I live in a small round house in the middle of 20 acres of forest on a hillside in remote western Oregon. My wife, Beverly, built the place before we were together. The silence, the isolation, the beauty all around me, the lack of edges to the space we live in, and the intimacy with which we live are all powerfully inspiring for my work."

"I'm a lifelong baseball fan, having grown up in Brooklyn when the Dodgers were still there, having played through my freshman year in college, having dreamed of covering center field for the Dodgers."

"I delight in reading baseball books and studying stats. I have a growing collection of old-time baseball caps and usually wear one when I write."

"My daughter, Rebecca Skloot, is also a writer. She's published her science writing widely, has been an editor and teacher, and is currently working on a nonfiction book under contract with Crown Books."

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    1. Hometown:
      Amity, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 6, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Franklin & Marshall College, 1969; M.A., Southern Illinois University, 1971
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

Part One: O Wondrous Transformation!
1 Some Things Nearly So, Others Nearly Not: The King and I and Me
2 Senior Speech
3 Beep Beep
Part Two: On and Off the Page
4 Playing the Cock
5 The Bottom Shelf: On Novels I Keep Trying and Failing to Read
6 The Top Shelf: On Books I Need Beside Me
7 Something to Marvel At: Discovering Jules Verne at Sixty
Part Three: A Spinning World
8 The Side Effect of Side Effects
9 Revertigo
10 Sway Me Smooth: Soundtrack for an MRI of the Brain
11 Anniversary Fever
Part Four: Cartwheels on the Moon
12 Elliptical Journey
13 To Land’s End and Back: A 1,512-Mile Drive Around Southern England
14 The Famous Recipe 

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