My Beautiful Wickedness

The Best Seat In the House — quick review
August 11, 2007, 10:41 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Allen Rucker’s Best Seat in the House: How I woke up One Tuesday and Was Paralyzed For Life offers one man’s perspective on becoming suddenly and profoundly disabled in mid-life. Rucker experienced a rare disorder — transverse myelitis — and went from hack TV writer, 10K runner, and prickly sumbitch to hack TV writer and prickly sumbitch T10 paraplegic in about an hour and a half. The book is both about his efforts to come to terms with his condition and a penetrating examination of the world as viewed from a Quickie 2.

He makes no bones about it. Paralysis sucks and he does not wish to be adored for being an overcomer. Rucker’s refreshingly honest about the mixed bag of sudden-onset disability. On the other hand, he has come to understand that paralysis is what it is and one can waste a lot of time in life hiding, denying, or otherwise refusing to cope with change. He’s at his hilarious best when he describes (in cringeworthy detail) the marginalizing, trivializing, unhelpful, rude, self-absorbed able that make life more of a bitch than it needs to be. He’s merciless and sharp in describing the ordinary bullshit that people in chairs put up with at parties, going to business meetings, trying to get into the bathroom at the Starbucks. And to be fair, he’s equally upfront about the calculations involved in whether it’s worth it to “work” the disability as a means to offset some of the hassles presented by a world not designed to accomodate the person in the chair. He comes up with some funny riffs (he *is* a comedy writer, after all — he’s got a real future in sit-down comedy) that work in a blackly comedic way. For example, he considers writing a crip calendar with some upbeat spirit-lifting messages that included these gems:

OCT 1 — This is your lucky day! (If you’re a male, anyway…)

Why? Because today a beautiful woman could see you across a crowded room, wave, run over, and bend down to kiss you, as women almost always do. When this happens, you’ll get to admire her breasts from about three inches away! And she won’t care because she doesn’t think of you as a sexual anything. Man, are you lucky!

Jan 3 — Relax! You’re a certified demi-god! You should commission a bust of yourself!

And he goes on to think about the ways in which being “inspirational” is both an exhausting, isolating pain in the ass and a way to fend off those “self-induced loser thoughts” that plague everyone from time to time. He winds up his reflection by hewing back to Sontag’s “Illnes as a Metaphor” to conclude that “just as illness is not a metaphor for character deficiency or moral error, neither is it a metaphor for greatness or martyrdom.” It is what it is. It’s the new normal. His insightful treatment of how to “perform” the disabled male self and the shifts of conciousness that he experienced were illuminating.

It’s a memoir, so we learn a lot about his career as a TV writer — as he says, paralysis is not that compelling a subject, unlike the life you lead — and how his understanding of success changes over time. I’m not very interested in the TV industry, so I did the literary equivalent of fast-forwarding during those even though I know that in the narrative of his life, the work he does and the life he leads now are the point. His life didn’t stop on a Tuesday in 1996. He’s impaired but he’s not done. Perhaps he thinks we’ll be surprised. I don’t know.

The thing is, however, that Rucker isn’t going to tell a person with mobility impairments or an SCI anything they don’t already know about their condition or their way of getting over in the world. In fact, I can see that parts of this book would piss off disability activists — he often tries to distance himself from other disabled people (he’s not like them, he’s got it better, etc) I’m guessing that this book wasn’t written for you. This book (which I see being snapped up by public libraries around the nation) is for the aging baby boomer, the quad returning from Baghdad, the now-able person who needs her conciousness raised. Viewed in those terms and for those audiences, I think it’s got a lot to offer in a humorous, thought-provoking, and not too chirpy way.

For anyone interested, here’s an interview with Rucker. And here’s another review in the NYT.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

HAHAHA! That calendar is soo true.

I would blog more about my day-to-day life but often I find my own rut both dull and excruciatingly painful….

Comment by Nick Dupree

Yep…um…I can see a conversation with him right away…

“I’m not like them…”
“No, you aren’t…you’re like *you* whatever that is…but neither should “I’m not like them, be full of the subtext “I’m better than them.”

I just wish the “made” impaired vs “born impaired” comparisons would go away…I used to make them, but after a bout with cancer and the arrival of new physical impairment I don’t like to come down on one side or the other…

It’s non productive.

And I have to put aside another unproductive severe bias in that male risk takers, able or not…piss me the heck off. (Yep, there I said it.)

Comment by imfunny2

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