Why has the art of so many writers and artists, from John Keats to Frida Kahlo, seemingly benefited from profound disease and discomfort? Notes From the Sick Room is a sweeping investigation into relationship between art and illness.
Like the works of Plato, Notes from the Sick Room enagages in a series of imaginary conversations to explore fundamental truths about our world. The book is set in a hospital that bends the rules of time and space. Within its wards and departments we meet artists, musicians and writers who have suffered from various physical illnesses – cancer, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and physical trauma. Their lives and works are discussed in an attempt to diagnose how their complaints influenced their work or how their creativity affected their symptoms. We meet Virginia Woolf, Kathy Acker, Frida Kahlo, Katherine Mansfield, Bob Dylan Bruce Chatwin and many others as they struggle to produce works of art, literature and music while in denial, acceptance or flight and through periods of serious illness and convalescence. As we move through the hospital, specialists keep us informed of the history of creativity and illness and the author divulges his own medical history.