How Not to Break

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For NYT Magazine, Wils S. Hylton tackles the myth of Laura Hillenbrand, the bestselling nonfiction author who never really leaves her house:

She is cut off not only from basic tools of reporting, like going places and seeing things, but also from all the promotional machinery of modern book selling. Because of [chronic fatigue syndrome], she is forced to remain as secluded from the public as the great hermetic novelists. She cannot attend literary festivals, deliver bookstore readings or give library talks and signings. Even the physical act of writing can occasionally stymie her, as the room spins and her brain swims to find words in a cognitive haze. There have been weeks and months—indeed, sometimes years—when the mere effort to lift her hands and write has been all that she can muster. “In the middle of working on ‘Unbroken,'” she told me, “I went just off a cliff and became very suddenly totally bedridden—I didn’t get out of the house for two years.”


Bryan Washington has written for Puerto Del Sol, Ninth Letter, and Midnight Breakfast, among others; he's also the recipient of a Houstonia Fellowship. He lives around New Orleans. More from this author →