Diary of a Detour

Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: 20 illustrations Published: September 2020

Author: Lesley Stern

Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Creative Nonfiction, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

Diary of a Detour is film scholar and author Lesley Stern's memoir of living with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. She chronicles the fears and daily experience of coming to grips with an incurable form of cancer by describing the dramas and delving into the science. Stern also nudges cancer off center stage by turning to alternative obsessions and pleasures. In seductive writing she describes her life in the garden and kitchen, the hospital and the library, and her travels—down the street to her meditation center, across the border to Mexico, and across the world to Australia. Her immediate world is inhabited with books, movies, politics, and medical reports that provoke essayistic reflections. As her environment is shared with friends, chickens, a cat called Elvis, mountain goats, whales, lions, and microbes the book opens onto a larger than human world. Intimate and meditative, engrossing and singular, Diary of a Detour offers new ideas about what it might mean to live and think with cancer, and with chronic illness more broadly.


Diary of a Detour is such a great book, excessive like Lesley Stern's own intense appetite for life that includes her wide knowledge about the intricacies of disease. It's the most pleasurable cancer book imaginable. I was riveted, the specificity of the writing is a drug. Stern has written a wonderful, stirring, magnificent book. Oh, World, you are the love object of this hardworking, self-deprecating extravagant genius.” — Eileen Myles, author of Evolution

Diary of a Detour is wonderful on so many levels. Besides being an extraordinary writer, Lesley Stern is emotionally and intellectually sophisticated in such subtle and deep ways. She outlines the stakes of learning to live and feel in the grip of inescapable finitude and mortality, together with others of many kinds and species, but also alone, as irreducibly this vulnerable person and no other. I love this book.” — Donna J. Haraway, author of Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene

"What emerges most powerfully is Stern’s determination to live—not just to stay alive but, as Tennyson writes in 'Ulysses,' 'To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.' . . . A mixture of the mundane and the medical, the ordinary and the extraordinary." — Kirkus Reviews


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lesley Stern is Professor Emerita of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego; author of Dead and Alive: The Body as Cinematic Thing, The Smoking Book, and The Scorsese Connection; and coeditor of Falling for You: Essays on Cinema and Performance.

Table of Contents Back to Top
1. Chickens Saved My Life
2. The Time It Takes (By Way of an Introduction)
3. Secret
4. A Possum Fate (Averted)
5. Events Unfold in the Snow
6. Chicken Feet
7. Why Chickens or Homage to Gloria
8. Boomerang
9. A Way of Making Another Egg
10. Shivers and Shakes
11. The Chicken or the Egg
12. Strawberry/Fetish
13. Life after Life
14. The Poetry of Pigs
15. Some Musings on Metaphor
16. Tricking the Body
17. Chicken Joke
18. Nice Paint Job
19. Frenzied Calm
20. Tokhm-e Morgh
21. Disability
22. Why Me Lord?
23. Five Down, Two to Go
24. The Warrior Song of King Gesar
25. Euphoria
26. A Fern Romance
27. Weeding
28. Untimely
29. Blue/Shimmer
30. Missed Connection
31. Blown through the Air
32. Don't Think about It (For the Moment)
33. Spheres of Glass
34. Purple Haze
35. Cantankerous Rooster
36. Dead and Alive: A Tenuous Continuum
37. Breakfast Anecdotes
38. Landscape
39. Tootin Pootin
40. Dragon Inn
41. All along the Highway
42. A Lion's Roar
43. The Ecology of Cancer, and What Do Ants Have to Do with It?
44. What Does It Matter?
45. So Unctuous and So Tender
46. Dorland
47. Touched by a Whale
48. Travel
49. The Answer Is Not Coming
50. Night Club Bouncers
51. All Natural
52. Anza Borrego
53. Lighten Up
54. Glad to Be Here (Plaintive Knowledge)
55. Stinging Nettles
56. A Talent for Cancer
57. Phobia: The Chickens Come Home to Roost
58. Walking Meditation
59. A Ticket for Tuppence
60. Reaching Yirrkala
61. Chookless
62. Chicken Shit
63. Mimetic Pain
64. You Are Mostly Not You
65. R.I.P. Elvis the King of the Cats
66. Afterlife
67. Art Alive
68. Bdies in Pieces
69. A Prospect of Consolation
70. Fig Future
71. Between Fresh and Rotten
72. Blood Poetry
73. Shimmer and Glimmer
74. I Need an Advocate
75. Nameless
76. Fermentation Dreams
77. The Structure That a Life Has
78. Like a Cat in a Hat, Sleek and Brave: R.I.P. Ryoko
79. The Malvolio Gene
80. What Do You Expect?
81. Chimera
82. The Last Chicken Standing
83. Arrivderci
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0967-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0881-1