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Books

Excerpt from ‘Everything Could Be Worse’

It had begun to snow on my drive back from tiny KHNJ, our Haddam community station (listening range of approximately 20 feet), where I once a week read for the blind — of whom there are many fewer than once was true. Disease and disability seem to have their own showcase seasons. For a while it was lung cancer. Then AIDS. Then prostate woes (I saw duty there). Then Epstein-Barr. Then unexplained pain. Now breast cancer’s staging a comeback — even in men. Medical science knocks one off just in time for a new one to pop up.

This late fall, I’ve been reading — 30 minutes’ worth is about all they or I can stand — Naipaul’s “The Enigma of Arrival.’’ (When is arrival not an enigma?) It’s a book, in many ways, made for the old and sightless, and perfectly suited for hearing in the dark, and better than the always-enigmatic crime log in the Trenton Times, or the weekly State House Report, detailing our portly governor’s bad-tempered cavortings. Naipaul, despite his objectionable self, and rumors of epic meanness toward man and woman alike, is as adept as they get at fingering the less-obvious-but-still-worrisome that lurks in the heart of the obvious and apparently placid — subjects the old and blind are apparently happy to substitute for their own intractable woes and what-ifs. I guarantee you it’s a million times better than a dismal book club — where the members all get loaded on cheap Pinot Grigio and go at each others’ throats about whether such ‘n such “anti-hero” is just like their ex-husband orwife, or whether there’s any reason in the world ever to read a novel about people you wouldn’t invite over for a fondue party.

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