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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Book Review: The Man Who Forgot How to Read by Howard Engel

imageThe Man Who Forgot How to Read: A Memoir by Howard Engel is not a literary masterpiece but it is a masterful work. Howard Engel, author of the Benny Cooperman detective novels, woke up one day and discovered that he could not read the newspaper. Not the newspaper, books, street signs, any written text. In the night he suffered a stroke that affected the part of his brain responsible for reading. He could write but could not read.

The Man Who Forgot How to Read is Engel’s story of his struggle to regain reading, from the day of the stroke to the day of the manuscript completion that is this memoir. I say it isn’t a literary masterpiece because compared to something like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ memoirs, this is plain writing. It’s not literary writing that flows into the memoir. It’s the straightforward story of a man who lost a significant part of his identity over night. An author who cannot read.

I do think it is a masterful work regardless. The incredible journey Engel takes in order to read and write and complete not just this manuscript but a new Benny Cooperman novel is worth recognition. Oliver Sacks, who writes the afterword, thinks it’s remarkable as well.

The Man Who Forgot How to Read by Howard Engel is published by Harper Collins Canada. Check out their website for more details on the book.

I’m fascinated by this story, but find it rather terrifying because the idea of losing my ability to read is one of the scariest things I can imagine.

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