Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teach Us to Sit Still by Tim Parks

Teach Us to Sit Still: A Skeptic's Search for Health and Healing Tim Parks is a successful writer who has written novels, nonfiction, and various magazine articles. Now he has written a unique memoir in which he is searching for a diagnosis or solution to mysterious pains and other physical symptoms no one can figure out.

Rather than a sad, whiny, poor-ol'-me sort of memoir, this is honest, factual, and often funny. At first he thinks his terrible pain, urinary frequency and other symptoms are simply physical. Prostate is the first body part to come under suspicion of course, but when he finally sees a doctor and has tests, that suspicion doesn't pan out. He is very funny about the indignity of his symptoms and more so the tests.

Then he fears he has cancer but that doesn't seem to be the case either. There is no physical diagnosis. He buys a book that helps some, but mostly convinces him that his lifelong constant tension and anxiety could be the problem. He tries therapy, massage, and finally retreats. What happens to his mind and his physical symptoms along the way is surprising but entirely believable. This guy doesn't just launch into possible solutions with enthusiasm; rather he drags himself into them with a hearty dose of skepticism. He would be the first to detect quackery and denounce it.

I loved his humor and the fact that the best thing he learned in this process was to be honest with himself. His wife was at first supportive, then bored with the whole thing, and then very happy with the new Tim Parks. I hadn't read anything by him previously, but I imagine his writing became much better, and took a whole new direction during his long search for a cure. Memoir lovers, this is for you. I think you'll find it unique among the other memoirs you've read.


  1. I like memoirs. This one seems a bit unique - focusing on his ailments and possible cures - as it goes. If his sense of humor carries the book, I might be interested.

  2. Margot, He does have a good sense of humor about it all. He's really funny in embarrassing situations, and in wanting to hide his condition. You might enjoy his search for a pain-free life and a new outlook on life as well.

  3. I like memoirs too. I'm curious about this one and wondering if he ever figured out what the problem was.