I’ve just finished reading a charming, articulate email from someone who has had ME disease for 25 years, thanking me for writing a book that she says captures and validates her own experience of the illness – and that she was buying six more copies to better inform her friends and family. Nearly every day I receive affecting messages in similar vein, often several, and this has not happened with any other book I’ve written. That Love and Fatigue in America is helpful in this way, is an outcome that is as welcome as it is unexpected, and I hardly feel I have earned the gratitude.
I wrote this book out of a mixture of imperatives, among which helping others was only a faint part since I had no confidence that it would be achieved. I thought of myself as trying to be a good writer, but not necessarily a person doing good, and I thought that the brisk voice of the book’s narrator, and his personal flaws – which are mine – might be unlikeable and even off-putting. But the flow of touching, helpful, and grateful emails has steadily grown; apparently a sizable proportion of readers – I don’t yet know how many there are – feel moved to write. I, in turn, feel more and more touched by these messages – though my replies usually fail to do them full justice.
I learn of other people’s difficulties and courage – so many difficulties and so much courage – and share the sense of being less alone. This is a completely new experience for me as a writer. My previous novels induced only handfuls of letters from people who felt particularly moved by, or admiring of, them. It’s become clear that something quite different is going on with Love and Fatigue in America. It is alive, and active, and useful in the world in a way beyond the usual insights and entertainment offered by a novel. I am gradually coming to accept – because I am repeatedly told – that it is a book that helps, and that I have inadvertently, in bringing something to life, done something useful.
These messages, by blessing me, do affect me, and my idea of who I am and my relationship to the world, returning to me the same benefit that readers have kindly assigned to my work. Thank you.
Dated June 29, 2012
Roger King grew up in London. He is author of four previous novels: Horizontal Hotel, Written on a Stranger’s Map, Sea Level and A Girl from Zanzibar. He has worked extensively in Africa and Asia and has held university posts in both international development and creative writing. Since 1991 he has suffered from ME disease, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. On May 9, 2012, the Solve ME/CFS Initiative hosted a webinar with Roger and Wilhelmina Jenkins who discussed Love and Fatigue in America and their shared experiences as people living with ME/CFS.September 26, 2012