Just published: My Three Suicides: A Success Story...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Irony Department: Catching up with author Lynn Hoffman

By Hugh Gilmore
I haven't seen Lynn Hoffman, the Mt. Airy writer for a few weeks, but he assures me he's on the mend.

            I haven't seen Lynn Hoffman, the Mt. Airy writer for a few weeks, but he assures me he's on the mend. Though he owns a house in South Philly, ran a restaurant in upstate New York, worked as a photographer in the Caribbean, lived in Europe several times, sailed in the Merchant Marine for years, and is actually from Brooklyn, I always refer to him as a "Mt. Airy writer" so he seems Local-worthy.

            Lynn, you may recall, is the novelist/poet/food and beverage writer who virtually discovered overnight that he had throat cancer. Stage 4, by the time the symptoms became dramatic enough to get him an accurate diagnosis. That was back in August.

            From September into November I had the privilege of driving him to Fox Chase Cancer Center a few times a week. Except for the motion, and the traveling motive, our ride conversations felt like continuations of our usual porch talks. Drive and talk. Same routine every time: arrive at the Cancer Center (which is an amazement -- like a friendly village set within a reality-based theme park) check in, weigh in, walk into a big dimly lit room, get strapped down, and radiated. Then he'd put his coat back on, walk out and ride home, a little quieter from being zoned out after the orgasmatron beat-down.

            The radiation destroyed his salivary glands and nauseated him. As you might expect, these effects destroyed his appetite. An ironical twist for a man whose career was constructed around his love of good food and drink. And even when he tried to force himself to eat, most food nauseated him. So he started losing weight. And each day, this muscular guy who started out with a big torso and thick arms slipped farther into his shirt and jacket, until by the culminating 35th day of radiation he looked like a little kid wearing his big brother's clothes.

            But not a word of complaint, even when asked. Never a comment to contrast other people's ongoing pleasures to his own ordeal. The same pleasant, considerate, world-curious person every day. Amazing. A mensch, as they say. Er war ein Mensch through the whole treatment.

            I want to direct you to Lynn Hoffman's Internet blog. I also want to tell you that the blog, which is in diary form -- you'd do best to start at the beginning and work forward -- is just flat-out good writing. You do not have to brace yourself to confront the gruesome while someone smiles through the tears. Hoffman is compassionate and gentle with the curious and sympathetic reader. His story blog is driven by a fascination with the nuts and bolts of treatment, incredibly bold intellectual curiosity, and a delicious sense of irony. It deserves to be made into a book, and it probably will, when his energy returns.  
            You can find Radiationdays.com simply by typing that title into the address line on your computer and telling it to go there.


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