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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Radiation Days (the book) Gets its First Review

So the book based on the blog you've been kind enough to follow was published this week. One of the advance press copies got to a reviewer at the upscale Chestnut Hill Local. Here's what Hugh Gilmore had to say:

Death threats were not wasted on Lynn Hoffman: His new book is terrific

Lynn Hoffman readies for radiation.
Lynn Hoffman readies for radiation.
by Hugh Gilmore
Lynn Hoffman and I had been friends for about a year when he called me at the gym. I stopped pedaling the cardio machine and pressed my cell phone to my ear. He told me he’d just been diagnosed with stage IV cancer of the throat.
“If I live, I may lose my ability to speak and taste,” he said.
That was the only lament I heard from him then and in the five years since. He seemed to care less about whether he lived than about how he lived. And now he’s written a book about his experience, “Radiation Days.”
Based on a blog he maintained throughout his treatment, the book is unlike any of the many cancer survival memoirs now on the market. It mixes unapologetic intelligence with good will and serves that combo up with the attitude you’d expect from an educated (a doctorate in anthropology) guy from Brooklyn (whose Ph.D. thesis was based on his Merchant Marine service). He ain’t buying it, Doc.
Hoffman was facing an ironically threatening crisis for a man who makes his living by writing and talking about good food, wine and beer. He’d done that nearly all his adult life. He’s also a poet, novelist, cook, beer brewer, kayak builder and sailor.
His knowledge in most of the subjects we’ve ever discussed runs both wide and deep. But what good is knowledge when it can’t be shared? Losing your voice when you’re a great speaker, losing your sense of taste when you’re a gourmet – well, treatment might leave him alive, but in need of a new self-definition.
Yes, he can write – quite well – but he always seemed to live and breathe to stand before an audience and preach, brother, preach about the pleasures they could be experiencing with this wine, or that beer, or this here sheaf of poems he was about to croon.
So he “fought” the cancer as Americans say, meaning he submitted himself to medical treatment and followed his doctors’ advice between radiology and chemotherapy sessions. Though those twin stresses debilitated him terribly, he kept an online blog through every stage of his treatment at Fox Chase Memorial Cancer Center. Hoffman’s blog was funny, detailed, sharp and original and it has since been polished and turned into a very smart, quite offbeat book whose full title is, “Radiation Days: The rollicking, lighthearted story of a man and his cancer” (Skyhorse Publishing, July 1, 2014).
I’m sure this book will be given to other cancer patients or their friends and families, as a source of support or inspiration. However, I want to stake a claim for its being a readable and enjoyable book on its own, despite bearing the weight of those dreadful title words “cancer” and “radiation.” (You can see the publisher’s marketing department trying to lighten things up by surrounding those words with “rollicking” and “lighthearted.”)
The real subject of this book is Hoffman himself. The story begins with his waking at 2 a.m. with a really sore and bloody throat, going to the emergency room at Temple University Hospital, getting lots of diagnostic tests, going home, coming back a week later and being told in a dramatically blunt way (which he has never forgiven) that he has throat cancer.
The fast pace of the story gets faster then as Hoffman describes his treatments, their effects on him, and his ongoing battle to translate medical-ese into language that a patient can understand.
This book could serve as a “So you just found out you have cancer …” guide through the circles of medical hell. Along the way there are villains, heroes, and heroines. There is friendly advice to those of us not struck yet in life’s big dodgeball game. Lots of information casually offered. Advice too, gently tendered. Recipes, even – for how to blend up something one can get down when too nauseated to eat. And when to drink it.
Hoffman survived the treatment. It was successful too – in that cautiously stated way that must now be adopted: no signs of cancer present at this time.
With the help of speech therapy he can talk clearly again. He can drink beer again, but not wine. He explains that wine requires saliva if it isn’t going to scorch your throat and tongue. He explains the chemistry of saliva. He explains the chemistry of wine and beer. None of this feels like a lecture because Hoffman is Hoffman, a walking encyclopedia who never forgot his Brooklyn wisecracking origins.
In fact the book eases into the philosophy of what it means to be human, what is the measure a life’s worth, and what is important enough to ask for your time when your time might be scarce. This is a book about the getting of wisdom written by a man who was learned and wise and funny even before he was forced to enter Round Two of Life’s Weird Sweepstakes. As the title of this piece says, death threats were not wasted on him. The rest of us are the beneficiaries of what he learned.

If you'd like a copy of the book (complete with photos) you can find it at:

Please let me know what you think. thanks, Lynn

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

And I Got a Book Out of it

john ridge, md is impossibly tall, remarkably lean and habitually brisk. today he takes his time, tells a personal anecdote, makes a self-deprecating remark. he commiserates with me about my cold and fever, asks a few diagno-questions. he moves quickly though through the worst parts of the exam, the parts that make you gag, the part with the tube snaked down your nose. (there's a snake in my nose, there's a snake in my nose!)
he says it's not cancer. he talks about the new normal for post-radiation days. he says he'll see me in a year.
i still have a stopped-up this and a runny that, but frankly my dear, i don't give a damn. i stopped at home depot, bought some beautiful oak plywood, cut it to a diagram and now it's time to put up shelves, sculpt a few dryads and then settle in with a book and some music.
maybe i'll bake a loaf of bread, maybe i'll just sautee some spinach.
Radiation Days (the book) is supposed to be out July 1st. The version should be available around the same time. When the audio is out, I'll have to tell you about what it felt like to read the whole thing over-aloud-in the course of a week. 

Oh. Did I mention that you can pre-order the book at:

I did? Ah well, I'm repeating myself.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Radiation Days will be published May 6th. Here's the link to the cool blue cover. Thanks for sticking with me, Lynn

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Book!

A few months ago, I gathered all the blog posts together into a single manuscript and submitted it to the nice folks who published the Short Course in Beer. I just found out that they want to publish Radiation Days as a book in 2014. (If I were the type of person who indulged in multiple exclamation points, I'd put them here.)

In the meantime, i'm thinking about how to use this publication to do the most good for the most people. My message isn't one of those goopy 'keep hope alive' things and it's certainly not 'attitude is everything. It's more like 'live your life right now, live, live, live.' Cancer sucks, but if it reminds you to live your life intensely and joyfully, then it ain't a complete loss.
I'm thinking that there's a monologue in there-for as long as my voice still works-for cancer support groups, maybe a fund-raising thing for local cancer-fighting groups. If you have any ideas, any at all, i'm a-listening.

thanks, lynn

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Radiation Redux

It just occurred to me that radiation isn't just what they aim at us cancer patients. It also means the process by which energy is emitted, the dance we do that spreads out into the world, the ripples on the surface from our oars in the bay.
Now it turns out that even though my cancer is gone for now, my every desire is to emit some energy, to tap my toe on the ground and have the vibrations spread.
So here's a new season on radiation days. It's not about living with cancer, it's about living afterwards. Or maybe it's just about living. I hope it's as interesting to read as the first season.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Round Two?

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. A few days ago I noticed a lump under  my jaw and shooting pains in my ears. Two days ago, I spat up blood. I have a scan set for friday, and we'll see what's going on.
In the meantime, tonight I'm part of a poetry reading at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. The conceit is that all us poets are part of the Poetry Brothel and you can buy a private reading of a poem from the poetry whore of your choice. I happen to think it's a lovely metaphor for writing for publication and a great way to think about the fragility of a man's voice.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


here's a thought on the matter: