Sidebar to LRB Memoir: Fish, There Are Fish!


Photograph by Robert Linsdell

by Jenny Diski

I took my broken wrist, along with my pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer, for a review at Addenbrookes. Not a good review. The fracture in my radius has dilated and shifted, like tiny tectonic plates, maybe, so it’s now a complex break. I could have an op to shore up the structure with a metal plate, or I could let it mend in my smart new goth black cast and have restricted movement and a degree of deformity. Question, will I be able to type with this deformity? Yes, the side to side movement would be a problem but I’ll be able to type properly with both hands. Solved. I don’t want an operation to fix it back to new. I’ve got cancer, fibrosis – I don’t care to have the most elegant wrist in the graveyard.

I was accompanied by my new friend Giles, who is trailing me this week for a profile in the New York Times Magazine (it’s like a prize you get with cancer). Giles wanted to see the oncology waiting room I’d written about in my last instalment of my diary/memoir in the LRB. So off we shuffled to the circle of doom, with its brightly coloured but fishless aquarium I ‘d spent some time worrying about. And lo, there were fish. Spritely minnows, little clown fish, a yellow one, a blue one, as perky as you please, racing around each other where none had been before. It takes very little for me to lose faith in myself. Surely there weren’t any fish in it when I passed every day for a month? Had I made it up? I’m a novelist, I do make things up, but I’m supposed to know when I do it.

I flushed with shame as Giles stood and observed the fish. Really, there weren’t any. Really. Was this going to be another writer scandal. Nonfiction piece by J. Diski contained fishy untruths. Or, said Giles, maybe they read your piece and rushed out to fill the tank. Which would mean that I’d had an effect in the world. Giles and I looked at each other for a second at this monumental thought, and then we shook our heads. Probably not. They’d probably been swimming around like torpedoes while my radioactivated eyes just failed to notice.

Also my broken wrist hurts. A lot.

Piece crossposted with This and That Continued.