August 26th, 2020

// Gifted Storyteller’s Journey with Parkinson’s and Other Challenges of a Long Life

Gifted Storyteller’s Journey with Parkinson’s and Other Challenges of a Long Life

Boston, MA, August 25, 2020 — When Parkinson’s disease descended like a dense fog on master storyteller John J. Clayton, he was forced to pivot his perspective, change his expectations and write from a place he calls “… both alive and not alive. Like a kind of ghost …” 

Parkinson's Blues: Stories of My Life begins with the arrival of the dark unexpected. In a Monty Python skit, someone in a drab living room complains about being nagged by questions. “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition,” he complains. Suddenly Michael Palin, in red 16th century costume, bursts into the room. “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!” he shrieks. 

Who expects the onset of Parkinson’s? Or cancer? Or stroke? Or the loss of a child? The terrible surprise—the life we didn’t expect—isn’t limited to Parkinson’s. It’s the existential condition of everyone’s life. In fourteen sketches, John J. Clayton links the experience of PD with the experience of childhood sickness, family battles, the struggle to make a good life out of a painful life. The sketches express the hope that we can grow spiritually in the midst of the terrible. 

Through 14 eloquent stories — all of which underscore that Clayton’s gift and spirit remain fully intact — Clayton links the onset of Parkinson’s disease with other unexpected, and challenging experiences. 

Parkinson’s Blues explores the anticipated pain and unexpected comedy of Parkinson’s in a manner that is deep, graceful and dignified.

Author John J. Clayton has published nine volumes of fiction, both novels and short stories. His collection of interwoven short stories, Minyan, was published in September 2016; his collection Many Seconds into the Future in 2014. Mitzvah Man, his fourth novel, arrived in 2011. 

Clayton’s stories have appeared in AGNIVirginia Quarterly ReviewTriQuarterlySewanee Review, over twenty times in Commentary, in Notre Dame ReviewMissouri Review and The Journal. Two personal essays have been recently published in Jewish Review of Books. His stories have won prizes in O.Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. His Radiance, a collection of stories, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.

Clayton grew up in New York City; received his B.A. at Columbia, his M.A. at NYU and his Ph.D. at Indiana. For much of his career he taught modern literature and fiction writing as professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has also written two books of literary criticism: Saul Bellow: In Defense of Man and Gestures of Healing, a psychological study of the modern novel.

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Parkinson’s Blues

Publisher: Paragon House

Release Date: September 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-155778943351895

Available from and Amherst Books



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