Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry

Overview

"[A] thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness." —Lydia Davis

In 2004 Rachel Hadas's husband, George Edwards, a composer and professor of music at Columbia University, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of sixty-one. Strange Relation is her account of "losing" George. Her narrative begins when George's illness can no longer be ignored, and ends in 2008 soon after his move to a dementia facility (when, after thirty years of marriage, she finds herself no ...

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Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry

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Overview

"[A] thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness." —Lydia Davis

In 2004 Rachel Hadas's husband, George Edwards, a composer and professor of music at Columbia University, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of sixty-one. Strange Relation is her account of "losing" George. Her narrative begins when George's illness can no longer be ignored, and ends in 2008 soon after his move to a dementia facility (when, after thirty years of marriage, she finds herself no longer living with her husband). Within the cloudy confines of those difficult years, years when reading and writing were an essential part of what kept her going, she "tried to keep track…tried to tell the truth."

"If only all doctors and nurses and social workers who care for the chronically ill could read this book. If only patients and family members stricken with such losses could receive what this book can give them. While Strange Relation relates one illness and the life of one family, it is also, poetically, about all illnesses, all families, all struggles, all living. The art achieves the dual life of the universal and the particular, marking it as timeless, making it for us all necessary."—Rita Charon, MD, PhD, Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University

"Rachel Hadas's own wonderfully resonant poems, along with the rich collection of verse and prose by other writers that she weaves into her story, clarify and illuminate over and over again this thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness—illness that, as she shows us so well, is at once frighteningly alien and also deeply a part of our unavoidable vulnerability as mortal beings. Beautifully written, totally engrossing, and very sad."—Lydia Davis

"Strange Relation is a deeply moving, deeply personal, beautifully written exploration of how the power of grief can be met with the power of literature, and how solace can be found in the space between them."—Frank Huyler

"A poignant memoir of love, creativity and human vulnerability. Rachel Hadas brings a poet's incisive eye to the labyrinth of dementia."—Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of Medicine in Translation and Singular Intimacies

"Like an elegy, Strange Relation is about loss and grief. Like all elegies, it also memorializes and celebrates. Rachel Hadas, in the course of her personal narrative, cites accounts of dementia, in its social and personal meanings."—Robert Pinsky

"Brilliant and tough-minded, poignant but clear-headed, Rachel Hadas shines a steady light on her experience as the wife of an accomplished composer who, at a comparatively early age, descended into dementia. Strange Relation never sacrifices truth for easy answers. Instead, Hadas uses literature to chart a course through wrenching complexities. This lauded and exceptional poet shows how language itself, the very thing her husband loses, became her shield as she crossed the ravaged lands of decision-making, making new discoveries, new friends, and new sense of the world. Strange Relation snaps with bravery, intelligence, and Hadas' tart, candid wisdom."—Molly Peacock

"Strange Relation is a beautifully written and piercingly honest account of life with a brilliant man as he descends into dementia, in his sixties."—Reeve Lindbergh

Rachel Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University in Newark. She is the author of many books, including The River of ForgetfulnessLawsIndelible, andHalfway Down the Hall: New & Selected Poems. She co-edited the anthology The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present. She lives in Manhattan.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589880610
  • Publisher: Dry, Paul Books, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/15/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 994,034
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Rachel Hadas: Rachel Hadas is a poet, professor, essayist and translator. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, essays, and translations. Her recent publications include The River of Forgetfulness, Laws, Indelible, and Halfway Down the Hall: New & Selected Poems -- a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. She lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents

Prologue vii

1 Two Silences 1

2 In Your Chair 6

3 Into the Murky World 11

4 Something That Went Before 15

5 And Choices Disappear 22

6 In Telling Fearful News 26

7 Readings in the Kingdom of Illness 30

8 Similes 43

9 Ambiguous Loss 53

10 Who He Was 63

11 Old Leaves of Abortive Memorials 70

12 Around the Table 75

13 Comfortably You Lie Back 79

14 A Kind of Goodbye 82

15 So Long Without Loving 85

16 Backups 92

17 The Spell 99

18 In the Park 103

19 The Pack 108

20 And I Awoke and Found Me Here 111

21 Failure Spreading Back up the Arm 117

22 The Chorus 122

23 Crusoe 129

24 The Poet and the Drudge 136

25 Your History Stacked Up 151

26 A Pain Somewhere in the Room 162

27 In the Middest 166

28 A Meeting Place of Multiple Presences 174

29 Suave Mari Magno 180

30 Tithonus 187

31 The Birthday Party 194

Acknowledgments 201

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2011

    brilliant

    Rachel Hadas is such a teacher, that you feel on every page her impulse to share what she knows about poetry, music and the consolations of art, and her very great skill at doing it. This is a book you want to pass on to others but not quite yet, because you also want to reread it yourself. Few of us will live out our lives untouched by dementia; this book offers wisdom and a very rare grace under the terrible pressure that it brings to those who love a sufferer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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