Creatures of a Day

I found Creatures of a Day in the library when I was looking for Oliver Sacks books. I bought a couple of Yalom's books when I was younger, and coincidentally I dug them out recently because I thought they might interest Alice. Irvin Yalom is a psychotherapist and novelist, and he's published several volumes of these lightly fictionalised case studies from his therapeutic practice. They're easy reading, but insightful, and a pretty good introduction to how psychotherapy works.

Dr Yalom is in his eighties now (when I last checked Google, he was still with us) and it's not surprising that the subject of death recurs frequently in this chapters. Some of his patients are themselves approaching death, or dealing with losses long ago, or just trying to figure out the best way to live. The most inspiring account here quotes one of Yalom's clients, dying of cancer, who resolves to be 'a pioneer of death' for her friends and family; since she is the first to go, she will be a model for them of how to die with grace and dignity, her final gift.

Irvin Yalom shares with Oliver Sacks a deep concern for the whole person of the patient, not just their diagnosis, and reminds us that every person has their own unique history and story and way of interacting with their world. He is wise but full of humour and self-deprecation, admits his mistakes and is open about his methods. I hope he sticks around a good while longer.

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