Jan Grue was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at the age of three. Shifting between specific periods of his life, he intersperses these histories with elegant, astonishingly wise reflections on the world, social structures, disability, loss, relationships, and the body.
... a narrative that is compelling, unconventional and powerfully told ... [Grue's] genius becomes evident in his mastery of language and his profound success in the academic world ... By his admission, Grue strives in his writing for what he calls 'the condensed,' choosing his words carefully and rendering these essays with language that is terse, direct and without garnish. He offers messages of wisdom that will resonate long after you’ve finished the memoir ... Even allowing for its translation from Norwegian, this is serious stuff (if you’re looking for giggles, you are in the wrong section) ... It must be said that Grue is tough company. This is a story of intense difficulty, which was surely difficult to write and is sometimes difficult to read. But it’s worth the investment. From behind the veil of disability, he shares valuable insight about the human condition. Do pay attention to that man behind the curtain. He has a lot to say.
Grue is a Norwegian writer and academic who owns a shrewd, stern, pared-down prose style ... He writes exceedingly well about his desire not to be too polite, not to be a pushover, while realizing that, as he puts it, 'you cannot live in an uninterrupted battle with the entire world.' He is candid about his peppery feelings, his 'hostile impulses, discomfort, ill-will' ... Grue is helplessly epigrammatic ... a quietly brilliant book that warms slowly in the hands. A bonus is the author’s writing about clothing. Grue learns to pay attention to style and cut. He becomes a bit of a dandy ... artful.
... after reading page after page of thought-chunks that are skillfully arranged—memories, philosophical commentaries, and reviews of books and cultural events, all freely rotating—I feel I have read a book of evasions. Neither the author nor the people in his life are realized or knowable on the page. He’s not interested in them, except in the way they are instrumental to his sense of himself. And this self is often in shadows—selling you something ... Grue’s book works when he allows us to see his body directly ... My chief quarrel with Grue is that he doesn’t situate himself with other people, not even other people with his diagnosis. He mentions only once the movement for disability rights—activism that has probably made possible the amount of access he has had to the world ... his comments grow increasingly tone deaf ... In the title Grue has chosen and elsewhere in the book he is saying: I’m still a man. Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. He didn’t need to worry. The last thing a man is going to do, in whatever body he’s born in, is understand that his condition has relegated him to the status of any woman on the planet. He will do anything to skirt this identification. Thus, if we needed more evidence, we know the author of this book is a real man.