Saturday, June 02, 2007

Consumption Gumption

TB or Not TB: That is the Question

The news is a buzz with reports about Andrew Speaker, the lawyer with a dangerous form of tuberculosis who was allowed to travel to Paris and Athens for an ill-advised marriage ceremony and honeymoon with his fiancee, and then to return to the U.S. even though border agents were notified he should be detained. That Speaker is a "personal injuries" specialist who may have personally injuried dozens of people in transit is rife with ironies, no?

Love in a Time of Tuberculosis

I only mention this news item because the night before the story broke, I found myself watching a W. Somerset Maugham short story anthology film marathon on Turner Classic Movies: Quartet (1948), Trio (1950) and Encore (1951). (All of these titles are currently out-of-print, so I dutifully stayed up to watch/tape them.) I had just watched the 2006 Edward Norton-Naomi Watts remake of The Painted Veil on DVD the night before, and I was eager to see more of Maugham's literature-into-film work. Interesting enough, the final vignette in Trio was something called "Sanitorium," which starred Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still) and Jean Simmons as two victims of TB who can either quietly and chastely live out the rest of their days at the sanitorium or get married and have 6 months (in Rennie's case) to two years (in Simmons' case) to live. They romantically choose quality-of-life love over quantity-of-life longevity. Self-sacrifice at its finest!

How funny that this news story should appear the next day and have such a different twist on the romanticism of The White Death. Far from self-sacrificing, Speaker's ill-advised actions seem merely naive and self-indulgent. As my mother used to say ehenever I tripped over something: "Was that trip necessary."

No, it wasn't, Mr. Speaker. Next time you're planning a honeymoon, think globally and act locally, like the Center for Disease Control.

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