Time on Fire
My Comedy of Terrors: Brutally frank, bitterly funny, and a genuine testament to human will.
‘A raucous romp through Hell’ is how the author of this remarkable book describes his five-year battle to overcome not only a diagnosis of acute leukaemia, but a wall of professional negativism that confidently expected him to die.
Evan Handler was twenty-four and already a rising actor on the Broadway stage when the blow fell. He immediately checked into a New York cancer centre and found himself launched on a bizarre, sometimes uproarious voyage through a twilight world: a place of lonely, haunted despair lit by moments of exultation and hilarity; a world where the truly horrible and the hysterically funny seemed at times to merge into one.
With the trenchant humour of a survivor he takes a wry, unflinching look at the absurdity of fighting for life in a climate of certain death, amid a health care system on the brink of madness. He found himself refusing to succumb to the pressures of conformity that threatened his recovery, and struggling fiercely to find the road back to health – whatever the cost.
The book seesaws from the outright comedy of his trip to a Madison Avenue sperm bank (‘Nothing but the best for my progeny’), and his brief dalliance with psychic healing, to the sheer agony of seeing the effects of his illness on his family and girlfriend and the misery of his arduous return to the life he had left behind. Recording the full emotional range of his experience with extraordinary precision, he gives us a bracing, achingly poignant account of his determination to steal time and reclaim life.
Glowing with uncommon insights and uncompromising honesty, Time on Fire is a brilliant book, shot through with love and hope, anger and humour, a testament to the bravery and endurance of the human spirit.
“The funniest, most enjoyable account of a battle with cancer you’ll ever read. Painfully funny, remarkably open and life-affirming.”
“This is a visceral knockout of a book… Evan Handler is a brilliant writer, unrelenting in his observations of the sacred and the absurd.”
Amy Tan, author of ‘The Joy Luck Club’
“A truly great book. I cried at the humour and laughed at the pain. You’ll only know what I mean when you read Time on Fire. And you must at all costs.”
Neil Simon, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright