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Patrick Weekes is a writer, martial artist, and acclaimed omelet chef. He eagerly anticipates the fame, fortune, and groupies that he's been told come with starting an online journal.
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2003-11-04 5:40 AM
Novel Good, Provided Author is Actually Disabled
Long-time reader and informal literary critic Mark Swenson reported that For Who I Am, a novel about a young woman growing up with cerebral palsy, is a triumphant, inspiring work, provided that the author is actually disabled.
"I can't say it strongly enough," Swenson reported to his reading group on Saturday. "This is an instant classic, a great work that proves that a powerful spirit can overcome any obstacle. I mean, if [author] Pamela Wharton really does have cerebral palsy that is. I need to find out about that before I commit."
According to Swenson, the true character of the novel was clear from the very beginning. "At first I thought that it started out way too slowly, with all these long and overexplained scenes about the protagonist as a little girl being set apart from the rest of her class -- or these hackneyed bits where she was forced to play sports with everyone else, but everyone let her win. But then I realized that what the author was really doing was forcing us to see the world from her perspective, the perspective of a disabled person forced to observe. Coming from a physically healthy writer, these scenes would be terrible, but Pamela makes them shine."
Later in the book, Swenson notes that the author really dives into the "eroding and degrading" treatment that Suzie, the heroine of the story, receives from teachers and mentors. In one scene, Suzie realizes that she does not have to prepare for her class speech, or even deliver it well, since the teacher gives her an "A" regardless of her efforts. While Swenson initially criticized the language of the scene and attacked the teacher as "flat and unrealistic", he later recanted, describing the scene as a "brilliant role reversal by an author who has obviously experienced this in real life in a way that I, a healthy or 'normal' person, could never understand."
The climax of the novel shows Suzie confronting her physically healthy boyfriend and demanding to be treated as an adult, responsible and accountable for her actions and her choices. While Swenson admits that the scenes have language and word choices that would be considered "Danielle Steele-ish" in a novel from another writer, he declares that the "heartfelt honesty" of the scene gives it a "sweet and unexpected intensity" when read in the context of a novel written by someone with cerebral palsy.
"My first thought was that it was obvious, shallow, and insistent about a message we've gotten for the past 300 pages already," Swenson reported to the group, "but then I realized that the author doesn't get to stop thinking about it whenever she wants. This is her world, I assume, and she has to think about these issues all the time. It's only natural that it recur as a theme throughout her novel, and it really makes the reader all that more sympathetic to Suzie's condition -- and Pamela's, for that matter.
"Yes," Swenson finished, "by the end of this story, I had learned that little Suzie has the right to be judged for who she is, without the condescending sympathy that demotes her to a helpless creature incapable of any real accomplishments. And for a message that important, everyone but the truly heartless will be able to overlook the minor rough points in character, plot, and theme. Pamela Wharton is the best disabled writer of the decade -- maybe even the century. Provided she's actually disabled, of course."
In response to the report, author Pamela Wharton allegedly banged her head against the table several times while muttering "...whole... freaking... point..." over and over again. Sales of For Who I Am are expected to break national records, provided that Wharton is indeed actually disabled.
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