"A fascinating, totally seductive read!" --Eula Biss, author of Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays and On Immunity: An Inoculation
"A book built of brain and nerve and blood and heart. . . . Irreverent and astute. . . . Pain Studies will change how you think about living with a body." --Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck and Bowlaway
"A thrilling investigation into pain, language, and Olstein's own exile from what Woolf called 'the army of the upright.' On a search path through art, science, poetry, and prime-time television, Olstein aims her knife-bright compassion at the very thing we're all running from. Pain Studies is a masterpiece." --Leni Zumas, author of The Listeners and Red Clocks
In this extended lyric essay, a poet mines her lifelong experience with migraine to deliver a marvelously idiosyncratic cultural history of pain--how we experience, express, treat, and mistreat it. Her sources range from the trial of Joan of Arc to the essays of Virginia Woolf and Elaine Scarry to Hugh Laurie's portrayal of Gregory House on House M.D. As she engages with science, philosophy, visual art, rock lyrics, and field notes from her own medical adventures (both mainstream and alternative), she finds a way to express the often-indescribable experience of living with pain. Eschewing simple epiphanies, Olstein instead gives us a new language to contemplate and empathize with a fundamental aspect of the human condition.
Lisa Olstein teaches at the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of four poetry collections published by Copper Canyon Press. Pain Studies is her first book of creative nonfiction.
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About the Author
Lisa Olstein is the author of four poetry collections published by Copper Canyon Press: Radio Crackling, Radio Gone, winner of the Hayden Carruth Award; Lost Alphabet, a Library Journal "Best Book of the Year" selection; Little Stranger, a Lannan Literary Selection; and Late Empire. She is a member of the poetry faculty at the University of Texas at Austin where she teaches in the New Writers Project and Michener Center for Writers MFA programs. Olstein also serves as an associate editor for Tupelo Quarterly. Pain Studies is her first book of creative nonfiction.
"Olstein succeeds marvelously when directly reflecting on her own pain and her attempts to treat it. An accomplished poet, she often uses language beautifully and inventively." --New York Times Book Review
"[Olstein] lays down shimmering prose that subtly unhinges the reader, conveying what it's like to see the world from a migraine's point-of-view. . . . Pain Studies is all the more powerful because its content is echoed by its form. It builds in fragments and bursts of prose. Its colors are vivid and brilliant." --Adroit Journal
"Deft, ingenious. . . . This is raw physicality in words. . . . Take the journey, read it. It's brain, blood, pain, life, and death; poetry in prose, a book that must be read and lived." --Lone Star Literary Life
"Olstein is a poet, which is clear in the quality of her language. [Pain Studies] is rich, absorbing, and suggestive." --Book Riot
"Grabs readers' attention, even those without a history of chronic illness. . . . Its analysis spans multiple perspectives and includes Olstein's sincere recollections, making this extended lyrical essay shine." --Library Journal
"Fascinating. . . . [Pain Studies] succeeds in delivering an intriguing look at a set of questions with wide relevance." --Publishers Weekly
"Erudite. . . . Olstein's blending of the personal and the academic is compelling. . . . A quality addition to the literature on pain." --Kirkus Reviews
"Lisa Olstein's luminous meditation on pain winds around a beautifully curated series of artifacts. Bits of poetry, ancient medicine, brain science, television episodes, excerpts from the trial of Joan of Arc, and works of art support the spiderweb on which her insights hang like condensed mist. A fascinating, totally seductive read!" --Eula Biss, author of Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays and On Immunity: An Inoculation
"Olstein offers readers an eclectic and deeply personal set of meditations on pain as experienced and remembered, inflicted and endured, perceived and denied. Through neuroscience, literature, and history, from hit TV shows to classical philosophy, this is a unique and fascinating contribution to the literature of pain in general, and migraine in particular." --Katherine Foxhall, author of Migraine: A History
"In Pain Studies, Olstein paints a sharp-witted and insightful picture of the rollercoaster ride that is called pain. Her own experiences allow her to approach the topic in a way that provides relevant reading to anyone treating or living with chronic pain. As doctors, we need to find more effective ways to help patients dealing with pain. This book is a step in that direction." --Jill Heytens, M.D., neurologist
"Olstein's remarkable Pain Studies is a book built of brain and nerve and blood and heart, about what it means to live with pain. Irreverent and astute, synthesizing the personal and the historical, popular culture and poetry and visual art, Pain Studies will change how you think about living with a body in our beautiful and doomed world." --Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck and Bowlaway
"Like a prismatic series of artist's sketches, Pain Studies offers a dazzling variety of perspectives--personal, political, phenomenological, lyrical--on the unanswerable question of human suffering. Through virtuosic readings of everything from pre-Socratic philosophy to the trial transcripts of Joan of Arc to the cultural semiotics of House M.D., Olstein brilliantly extends the literature of pain into our contemporary historical moment. But this searching work also illuminates how pain studies us. Turning the last page on Olstein's agonistic anatomy, we've come to know one of hurt's intimate acquaintances, unbroken by her suffering, or if broken in parts, then painstakingly remade." --Srikanth Reddy, author of Voyager and Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry
"These spectacular sentences chart a thrilling investigation into pain, language, and Olstein's own exile from what Woolf called 'the army of the upright.' On a search path through art, science, poetry, and prime-time television, Olstein aims her knife-bright compassion at the very thing we're all running from. Pain Studies is a masterpiece." --Leni Zumas, author of The Listeners and Red Clocks