Last night I went to visit an old friend and former classmate who is terminally ill. I've known he was in hospital for a while now, and had been taking visitors for the last few weeks, but somehow, I never worked up the courage to go and visit him. Mostly because we hadn't really spoken in several years (we went off to different colleges in different cities and lost touch after that) and I really had no idea what he was like now as a person. Never mind that I had no idea what to expect.
Really, who does?
But I went, and though there were some conversation lulls (and I am sure I fidgeted like a madwoman and said a few wrong things) it was good to see him and catch up on what's gone on in our respective lives the past few years. But as soon as I left and walked back to my father's car, I cried my eyes out and couldn't stop. How can a world be so unfair as to condemn someone about my age, who has always possessed a brilliant mind, to a slow descent into death?
Never mind that what got to me the most was how little I could actually do. And my first instinct in almost any situation is to be constructive, help solve a problem, fix a situation. People who pour out their problems to me, more often than not, end up with advice that they might not want to hear because they want sympathy and I want to be useful. I can't help it; I guess it's my nature.
But there is one small thing I can do, at least: when I walked in I noticed he was reading a book, so I asked what it was. I'd brought one as well, but though he thanked me for it, he refused to take it because he felt he couldn't handle anything more than the most escapist, fluffiest fiction. So I promised him that I would find more books like those to help him pass the time.
That said, I'm drawing a bit of a blank -- I suggested P.G. Wodehouse but he's looking more for pure fantasy (even if Wodehouse, arguably, counts because he wrote unreal versions of England that stopped existing after the 1920s.) So I'm turning this over to you all, for those who read fantasy a lot more widely than I do: what books should I be on the lookout for? And what other "really unreal" books a la Wodehouse would work? (I'm thinking of bringing him some of Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels, for example.)
Leave your suggestions in the backblogs or drop me a line.