Twilight: Losing Sight, Gaining Insight

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Overview

In 1992, when Henry Grunwald missed a glass into which he was pouring water, he assumed that he needed new eyeglasses, not that the incident was a harbinger of darker times. But in fact Grunwald was entering the early stages of macular degeneration - a gradual loss of sight that affects almost 15 million Americans yet remains poorly understood and is, so far, incurable. Now, in Twilight, Grunwald chronicles his experience of disability: the clouding of his sight, and the daily struggle to overcome its physical ...
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New York, NY 1999 Quarter Cloth First Edition New in New jacket Book Club. 12mo-over 6?"-7?" tall. New York, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. First edition. 12mo. Dark blue quarter ... cloth over teal green boards with gilt lettering on spine, cream colored endpapers, 130 pp. The author gives us an autobiography of the eye-his visual awakening as a child and young man, and again as an older man who, facing the loss of sight, feels a growing wonder at the most ordinary acts of seeing. This is a story not merely about losing sight, but about gaining insight. New in a new dust jacket, protected by a mylar cover. Read more Show Less

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Twilight: Losing Sight, Gaining Insight

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Overview

In 1992, when Henry Grunwald missed a glass into which he was pouring water, he assumed that he needed new eyeglasses, not that the incident was a harbinger of darker times. But in fact Grunwald was entering the early stages of macular degeneration - a gradual loss of sight that affects almost 15 million Americans yet remains poorly understood and is, so far, incurable. Now, in Twilight, Grunwald chronicles his experience of disability: the clouding of his sight, and the daily struggle to overcome its physical and psychological implications; the discovery of what medicine can and cannot do to restore sight; his compulsion to understand how the eye works, its evolution, and its symbolic meaning in culture and art.. "This is a story not merely about seeing but about living; not merely about losing sight but about gaining insight.
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Editorial Reviews

David Grann
Henry Grunwald, the former editor-in-chief of Time Inc. and ambassador to Austria, set out, like [Aldous] Huxley, to regain his vision, only to recover along the way fragments of his memory.
talk Magazine
Library Journal
In 1992, Grunwald, author of One Man's America, former editor-in-chief of Time, and former U.S. ambassador to Austria, went for an eye examination and learned that he was going blind. He was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). One of the least understood eye diseases and not reliably identified until the 1970s, AMD afflicts an estimated 15 million Americans and is the most common cause of irreversible, mostly untreatable, vision loss. As Grunwald's outward view dimmed, he looked inward, reflecting on his life and the sense of loss he experienced as his vision failed. He writes about how things will never be the same for him as when he was fully sighted, but he explains how he has learned to cope with near-blindness. Grunwald concludes that in learning to live with the afflictions that make life difficult, we are actually experiencing living. We emerge stronger for having struggled and finally overcome the obstacles life presents. Grunwald's reflective meditation may help others put their lives in perspective. For public libraries.--James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A slim volume on the learned truths of living with limited vision by a man for whom the printed word has been the mainstay of both his professional and private life. Grunwald (One Man's America, 1997), former editor-in-chief of all Time, Inc., publications and under President Reagan US ambassador to his native Austria, first wrote of his fading sight in a 1996 New Yorker piece, "Losing Vision." That article is the genesis of the present work. Once diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), he began to learn everything possible not only about his condition but about the history of eye diseases and their treatment, and he shares some arcane tidbits here, describing ancient Egyptian remedies and revealing how the eye injuries of WWII fighter pilots led to refinements of cataract surgery. On a more personal note, as Grunwald's vision fades, he becomes a "visual glutton," storing up precious images of beloved faces and scenes. He dredges up visual memories from his childhood and muses about the art of seeing, the remaining pleasures of museum going, the hazards and rewards of traveling, the difficulties of ordinary social intercourse when eye contact is missing, and the enormous frustration involved in reading and writing. Perhaps the most poignant sentence in the book is his quiet lament, "My books are still more than furniture, but less than the living things they used to be." While the physical effects of AMD are formidable, he has found the emotional ones more troublesome. He admits to bouts of anger and depression, but tries to fight back with humor and by making a game out of the need for coping strategies. In the process, he has learned patience, humility, and,reluctantly, acceptance of membership in the society known as the "handicapped." Grunwald's eyesight may have become cloudy, but the picture he creates for us is crystal clear.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375404221
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/19/1999
  • Pages: 130
  • Product dimensions: 4.74 (w) x 7.52 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry Grunwald was the editor in chief of Time Inc. publications and also served as U.S. ambassador to Austria. He is the author of One Man's America: A Journalist's Search for the Heart of His Country.
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Read an Excerpt

In the primordial ocean, a tiny organism stirs. It is covered with a light-sensitive pigment, an eyespot, that seeks the sun and turns the organism toward it. The act is not seeing, but the precursor of seeing. It is part of the fundamental impulse in all living things to reach for light, part of the indomitable will to see.

I stand at the edge of the ocean and I think of those eyespots and of the single-cell creatures that, eons ago, began the miraculous process of sight. I, too, strain to see -- to see the waves, the sand, the shells and seaweed and debris that wash ashore. My eyes are animated by the same impulse, the same will to see. But my eyes don't work, at least not fully, because they are blocked by disease. The scene around me appears through a kind of curtain, a haze. If I bend down, I will have a hard time telling a stone apart from a shell, a coin from a piece of sea glass. If I were to pick up a discarded newspaper, I would not be able to read it. During a lifetime as a writer and editor, reading newspapers -- or news in any form -- had been a natural and indispensable part of myself. My existence seemed to be wrapped in the printed word. No longer.

Until the onset of my disease, I was literally unaware of my eyes, with the occasional trivial exception of needing new glasses or having somebody extricate a speck of dust. Now I am aware of my eyes almost constantly. I imagine them as distinct globes inside my head. I try to visualize the intricate vessels and veins and conduits in these globes. I think of their fragility but also of their power. In medicine as well as in romantic poetry, it is the heart that is the center and controlling mechanics of life. Ifthe heart stops, life stops. The loss of sight doesn't not mean death. Yet for ages, the eyes was believed to contain a human being's vital essence -- a not wholly irrational belief. For those of us who are born with the ability to see, sight determines most of what we know about the world, what we enjoy, and what and whom we love. That is surely one reason why in the mythology of almost every culture the eve plays a dominant part.

My years with failing vision have prompted me to learn about the nature of the eye and the incredible gift of sight, which I had always taken for granted until it began to slip away. But I also leaned about living within limits and overcoming disability. This, then, is not merely a story about seeing but also about living. It is a story not merely about losing sight but about gaining insight as well.

In 1992, my wife, Louise, and I rented a villa outside Florence. The light in the house was inadequate, especially in the gloomy, rainy weather of that October; the twenty-five-watt bulbs in the pseudoelegant scones reminded me of those notoriously underlit Russian hotel rooms. One afternoon, I picked up a carafe from a side table in a particularly dark corner to pour water into a glass. I missed the glass. I inveighed against the landlord, who, I thought, was trying to save electricity with those weak lightbulbs, but I suspected that I might need new glasses. Back in New York , quite unconcerned, I dropped in on the nearest optician. In a darkened cubicle, he took me through the usual eye test. I have worn glasses ever since I was a teenager. Using both eyes, I read the chart without difficulty, but when my right eye was covered and I looked only through my left, I saw virtually nothing. My right eye, on the other hand, was close to normal and, as I realized later, saw for both. The optician seemed embarrassed, and he took me through the test again. The result was the same. "I think you had better see an eye doctor," he said.

Still not too alarmed, I did just that and was told that I was suffering from something called macular degeneration. I did not know what macular meant, but I soon learned that the word derives from macula (Latin for "spot") and refers to a tiny area in the retina. As for degeneration the term was extremely depressing, with its overtones of moral decay. I had never heard of the disease.

It is formally known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, because most sufferers are over fifty. It is one of the least understood eye problems, not having been reliably identified until the 1970s. To one degree or another, it afflicts an estimated 15 million Americans and will beset millions more in the future. It is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss in the world, yet its origins are unknown. . . .

We have become accustomed to medical marvels: organ transplants, heart bypass operations, hip replacement. Concerning the eye, I knew about cornea transplants, cataract removals, treatments for glaucoma and other disorders that in the past had often led to blindness. I did not yet know how serious the effect of this disease could be, and I naturally assumed that it was treatable. But I was shocked to learn that it really wasn't -- at least not with lasting effect. No comparable marvels had been devised for macular degeneration. I was outraged. Now I really started to worry.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Never...

    Read it before but i bet its really good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2000

    The author really understands macular degeration

    As a daughter of a man who has macular degeration I had wondered what my dad could see and could not see, how he felt and how he coped. As I read this book to my dad he nodded and said yes and told me stories of his experiences that he had never shared before. He said over and over that the author really has macular degeneration and really knows what he is talking about. Today I am ordering him a copy to share with others he knows who have macular degeration and their families. It has been a great help. I have told others about this book especially my friends at the Center for the Visually Impaired. I wish it were in large print and on tape.

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