Winner of the Center for Fiction's Doheny Prize "His way is with humor, optimism, courage and probing introspection, the very characteristics -- combined with crisp prose and a rare and innately interesting medical condition -- that make this a winning literary debut." --The New York Times Book Review
Raucous family memoir meets medical adventure in this heartfelt, hilarious book exploring the public and private theaters of illness. After a tumor bursts in Mike Scalise's brain, leaving him with a hole in the head and malfunctioning hormones, he must navigate a new, alien world of illness maintenance. His mother, who has a chronic heart condition and a flair for drama, becomes a complicated model as she competes with him for the status of "best sick person."The Brand New Catastrophe is a moving, funny exploration of how we define ourselves by the stories we choose to tell.
Mike Scalise's work has appeared inThe New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Agni, Indiewire, The Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships and scholarships from Bread Loaf, Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, and was the Philip Roth Writer in Residence at Bucknell University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
"In 2002, a presumably healthy 24-year-old man went to the emergency room with what he believed was a migraine. Instead, Scalise's headache was a symptom of a bleeding pituitary gland tumor in the brain. He writes about his surgery, recovery, Gamma Knife radiotherapy, injections, doctor's visits, and necessary hormone-replacement medications (Hydrocortisol, Synthroid, desmopressin, AndroGel). After the rupture of his pituitary tumor and operation, he develops hypopituitarism the body's inability to secrete essential hormones a condition he dubs hormonelessness. Prior to the diagnosis and treatment of the tumor, he unknowingly had acromegaly, an endocrine disorder of excess human growth hormone. Lurch of TV's The Addams Family, Jaws in James Bond movies, and wrestler Andre the Giant also had acromegaly. Scalise handles his calamity with a weird sense of humor and often nonchalance. Along the way, he gets married, works a number of different jobs, and has frequent interactions with his eccentric parents. The effect of illness on self-image and its gravitational pull on family, friends, and spouse are touchingly detailed in this upbeat health memoir.--Miksanek, Tony Copyright 2016 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Scalise, who has written for the Paris Review and Agni, delivers an offbeat, witty memoir about his life after discovering that he has a brain tumor related to acromegaly, a hormone disorder that causes gigantism. Scalise is unsparing in recounting his reaction to his diagnosis ("You learn at once that you've been placed on a very particular spectrum of ugly") while keeping the reader engaged in a story about catastrophe: "Focus on the oddities and ironies that would seem incredible and ridiculous in any context, not just that of your disaster." In between descriptions of his various hospital visits and operation, he presents how his illness affected his relationships with his "universe of loved ones, friends and acquaintances, all pulled into a troubled orbit around the busted person at its core." The most memorable characters are his girlfriend, who helps him deal with tumor-related testosterone issues, and his mother, who suffers her own chronic cardiac problems. He also looks at acromegaly in a broader social context, such as how it affected a number of Hollywood actors including André the Giant. But the heart of Scalise's sensitive and well-written memoir is his depiction of how he dealt with his illness personally, especially the "complicated role-play" of "becoming infatuated with your own defense mechanisms." (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
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