In the Shadow of Memory
University of Nebraska Press, Cloth & Paper, 2003, 244 pp
Winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction.
Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Award in Essay/Creative Nonfiction.
Winner of the Oregon Book Award in Creative Nonfiction.
Finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award.
Finalist for the PEN Award for the Art of the Essay.
Book Sense 76 recommended title.
Named a best book of 2003 by the Chicago Tribune and The Oregonian.
Chapters of In the Shadow of Memory were included in The Best American Essays, The Best American Science Writing and The Pushcart Prize Anthology.
From the Publisher:
In December 1988 Floyd Skloot was stricken by a virus that targeted his brain, leaving him totally disabled and utterly changed. In the Shadow of Memory is an intimate picture of what it's like to find oneself possessed of a ravaged memory and unstable balance and confronted by wholesale changes in both cognitive and emotional powers. Skloot also explores the gradual reassembling of himself, putting together his scattered memories, rediscovering the meaning of childhood and family history, learning a new way to be at home in the world. Combining the author's skills as a poet and novelist, this book finds humor, meaning, and hope in the story of a fragmented life made whole by love and the courage to thrive.
Quotes from reviews of the book:
"Skloot has created a luminous yet brutally candid memoir. . . . This book possesses a gravity and immensity that belie its brief length." —Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
"Bracingly triumphant . . . . [Skloot] is a master of the genre, deftly incorporating neuroscience and autobiography, vivid detail and hard-won emotional truth . . . . Think of In the Shadow of Memory as an Oliver Sacks work written from the inside out, the neurological patient as narrator of his own condition." —Dan Cryer, Newsday
"What makes this collection compelling is the fact that the story is told from inside the experience, rather than from the perspective of a doctor or scientist. At the same time, Skloot manages to integrate the science of memory and brain trauma into his personal account, and the writing itself is by turns elegant, funny and unpretentious." —Jennifer Lee, Pittsburgh Post‑Gazette
"The mind that created these pages may be halting, but it is entirely whole. . . . Tightly written and beautifully constructed, so we are astonished toward the end of one when Skloot mentions that it has taken him 11 months to write 13 pages. Earlier he had spoken of writing as a way of facing down the 'insult' of his injury. This whole book is an instance of that, and a tribute to the creative spirit, which is beyond anything as fragile as the thinking mind." —David Guy, Washington Post
"A poignant memoir of his experience with virally induced brain damage. Skloot's gemlike essays strive to make sense of this experience . . . . Never self-indulgent, the book is a clear-eyed investigation into our powers of recall, especially as they relate to painful familial pasts, and a look at how we never stop trying to make something transcendent of our disturbing memories . . . . With this searing honesty, Skloot's essays add up to a profoundly moving tale of emotion triumphing over the analytical, of the importance of accepting family shortcomings rather than trying to rewrite the past. The world Skloot delineates is one in which brain damage, like troubled family histories, offers backhanded kinds of blessings--blessings he nonetheless celebrates with refreshing candor." —Bernadette Murphy, Los Angeles Times
"Skloot's candid, concise and poetic prose provides a remarkably unsentimental look at the ways our lives can change in an instant or a day, and the amazing adaptability that can result." —The Oregonian
"Thank you, Floyd Skloot, for reminding us that even today it is sometimes possible to transform our most severe limitations into the miracle of lives enriched, deepened, renewed." —East Bay Newspapers
*Starred Review* "What will amaze readers . . . . is the poise—and even humor—with which Skloot turns personal catastrophe into literary reflection. These reflections convert neurological fact into poignant insight on how brain failure at once imperils and reveals the human essence. . . . Perhaps because so many of his memories have vanished into the black hole of disease, Skloot unfolds each of his remaining recollections as fragments of a precious mosaic of meaning. A remarkable literary achievement." —Booklist
"In this remarkable collection of essays, part of the American Lives series (edited by Tobias Wolff), Skloot conveys what it is like to live with a damaged brain. . . . This is an unusual and engrossing memoir written with intelligence, honesty, perception and humor." —Publishers Weekly
*Four Stars* "(An) exquisite collection of personal essays. . . . Reading Skloot, we learn about the science of the brain and resourcefulness of the heart." —Book
"Skloot surpasses mere adaptation to his viral encephalopathy. His meditations collapse voyeuristic distance on the brain damaged and lead us beyond empathy to answer our shared fate with an eloquence that may prepare us, even for the ultimate change." —Literature and Medicine
"The content holds such power that the reader is tempted to overlook the beauty of the language. Skloot's sentences are full of the kind of intuitive leaps that have always informed his poetry." —The Antioch Review
"Humor is one of the brushes always near his easel, and his wry sense of humor never deserts him. Indeed I cannot help suspecting that his highly developed sense of humor allowed him to write these remarkable essays in the first place." —The Sewanee Review
*Four Stars* "Skloot relies on experience, humor, and a wealth of medical detail to tell his story." —Bookmarks
"The consonance between word and feeling always seems right, no matter how wrenching and sad the subject matter. . . . Skloot's balance of honest reportage and his search for the 'objective correlatives' of his experience in art, nature and religion is unerring. . . . Perhaps there isn't a word for it, but whatever the inner cost of writing for Floyd Skloot, his work exudes the peace of someone able to see himself sub specie aeternitatis." —Image Magazine
"Over the past decade, Floyd Skloot has developed into one of the finest essayists we have. His strong, subtle, exquisitely truthful and often very funny writing testifies to an impressive humanity and maturity. In the Shadow of Memory is Skloot's best book, and can stand comparison with any personal essay collection by anyone in recent years" —Phillip Lopate
"Floyd Skloot is not simply one of the wisest, wryest, and most interesting essayists I've ever read, he is also among the finest. In the Shadow of Memory taught me as much about myself and my brain as it did about Skloot's battle to regain a semblance of the life he once led. It's a tale that is honest, insightful, and – in the end – profoundly moving." —Chris Bohjalian
"I can't remember the last book that taught me so much, and so well, about what it means to be human." —James Gleick