March Diary
Thoughts on China, and more

Detail of a portrait of Dr. Johnson by Joshua Reynolds (1775)


John Derbyshire

Under the influence     I guess I should apologize for not having made much of a showing in the Corner recently. Nor, for the eagle-eyed crew who pick through our print magazine’s The Week section guessing which editor contributed which paragraphs, have I had anything to say in those pages.

The fact is, I have been under the influence of bendamustine. (Trade name Treanda; though that always looks to me like something I’d see on the name tag of a check-out girl at the local discount store. “That’ll be $14.95.” “Here you go.” “Thank you, Sir. Have a nice day.” “You too, Treanda.”)

The nature of the influence is that my IQ seems to have dropped about 20 points, and my life processes have slowed to a crawl. Was there really a time when I simultaneously plotted and wrote books, conducted major home repairs, kept up a busy journalistic schedule, paid attention to my wife and kids, and took frequent breaks for travel? It seems incredible. This last few weeks, by the time I’ve roused myself from bed, got through necessary ablutions, checked my e-mail, and eaten a boiled egg, it’s 10:30 p.m. and time to go back to bed.

The other main effect of bendamustine is to make everything taste like something else. Bread tastes like low-grade candy; fish tastes like undercooked potatoes; bananas taste like wood; tea tastes like barium sulfate.

I’m not the least bit surprised to learn that “Bendamustine was developed in East Germany during the 1960s.” Thanks, Walter.

Johnsoniana     What would a monthly diary be without some Johnsoniana?

On June 17, 1783, aged 73, Dr. Johnson suffered a “paralytick stroke” in the night. He recorded the event to his friend Mrs. Thrale as follows:

Thus I went to bed, and in a short time waked and sat up, as has been long my custom, when I felt a confusion and indistinctness in my head, which lasted, I suppose, about half a minute. I was alarmed, and prayed God, that however he might afflict my body, he would spare my understanding. This prayer, that I might try the integrity of my faculties, I made in Latin verse. The lines were not very good, but I knew them not to be very good: I made them easily, and concluded myself to be unimpaired in my faculties.

I love that Johnsonian logic: “The lines were not very good, but I knew them not to be very good.” I feel the same way with my own temporarily (I hope!) diminished faculties: My thinking’s not very good, but I know it’s not. So long as that’s the case I can look forward cheerfully to getting back to normal — writing more books, giving more talks, and scandalizing more liberals.

(Though not, apparently, poor Keith Olbermann, who’s been fired from Current TV, whatever that is. I guess I’ll just have to cherish my memories of having once been Keith’s Worst Person in the World, like an old love affair.)