When Robert McCrum suffered a stroke at the age of 42, he joined a community of patients who endure insult to the brain and fight their way back to the lives they once took for granted. He chronicles his own battle to recover himself in My Year Off. Books and reading play a large part in McCrum's account. As both a writer himself and editor to authors such as Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje, McCrum is preoccupied by the literary, and books, reading, and writing are integral parts of his convalescence. His wife Sarah comforts him after his stroke by reading aloud from C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and he writes that Wordsworth, famously, spoke of poetry as emotion recollected in tranquillity. In hospital, I experienced memory as emotion recollected in immobility. Throughout his account, McCrum often translates his experiences through literature. His wide usage of books and literary encounters constructs a widened lens through which the reader understands his episode. Writing itself is privileged through McCrum's liberal use of his own diary as well as Sarah's. Glimpses of their feelings as the stroke changes their lives add a measure of contemporary understanding that hindsight and editorial awareness sometimes elides. Sarah's thoughts in particular widen the spectrum of the stroke's impact. She writes despairingly, What I couldn't say, though, was: I never learned to push a wheelchair that had my husband in it. . . . Why do you expect me to know what to do? but also with defiance: When people wouldn't step aside to let [Robert] go I glared at them and made them feel bad. Her voice proclaims with authority like McCrum's own, demonstrating the range of effect such an event has on the victim's family as well as him or herself.
McCrum's affinity for detail codifies his experience for his audience with humor and perspicacity. He writes: [Stroke] is like losing your wallet every day. Your wallet and your Filofax. The same sense of