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Neither Weak Nor Obtuse

Neither Weak Nor Obtuse - Jake Goldsmith

Neither Weak Nor Obtuse


"I am very ill. That would be the first and most obvious thing to know." Thus Jake Goldsmith, a young man with cystic fibrosis, begins this memoir, a sustained, profoundly honest and searching reflection upon the phenomenology of illness: how we perceive and respond to living with illness and dying from it, and how we fearfully evade doing so. His impassioned writing, marked by a brilliantly agonistic, idiosyncratic eloquence, transcends the snare of his own tragic circumstances, and holds up a mirror to society's time-honored complacencies: our callous attitudes towards the disabled, our false gods, and our general neglect and distortion of the search for meaning that has for those with life-limiting conditions an especially stark urgency.

In a letter to Goldsmith's hero, Albert Camus, Boris Pasternak wrote that while there may not be anything beyond "sensualism", "one that is completely naked and extreme becomes weak and obtuse." Jake Goldsmith leads us towards a humanely grounded materialism that is neither of these, valuing what is vital in human life: friendship, humor, and love, and giving us a moving glimpse at a partial truce with fear, for, he writes, "we may grow less afraid in each other's arms."


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"I am very ill. That would be the first and most obvious thing to know." Thus Jake Goldsmith, a young man with cystic fibrosis, begins this memoir, a sustained, profoundly honest and searching reflection upon the phenomenology of illness: how we perceive and respond to living with illness and dying from it, and how we fearfully evade doing so. His impassioned writing, marked by a brilliantly agonistic, idiosyncratic eloquence, transcends the snare of his own tragic circumstances, and holds up a mirror to society's time-honored complacencies: our callous attitudes towards the disabled, our false gods, and our general neglect and distortion of the search for meaning that has for those with life-limiting conditions an especially stark urgency.

In a letter to Goldsmith's hero, Albert Camus, Boris Pasternak wrote that while there may not be anything beyond "sensualism", "one that is completely naked and extreme becomes weak and obtuse." Jake Goldsmith leads us towards a humanely grounded materialism that is neither of these, valuing what is vital in human life: friendship, humor, and love, and giving us a moving glimpse at a partial truce with fear, for, he writes, "we may grow less afraid in each other's arms."


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