Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Girls; Chang and Eng

Margaret Wente, the Globe and Mail columnist, is extremely aggravating. She’s a key reason the paper ends up on the floor in my house, having been thrown across the room in response to her latest outrage. But sometimes she is absolutely bang-on. Her column yesterday, “Twin sides of the coin”, was one of those times. I’ve been puzzled about the media’s universally positive coverage of the birth of conjoined twins to a woman in BC. As Wente noted,

    “This unusual event was treated as a “good news” story all around. The babies were born healthy. Their mother was elated. The doctors and everyone at the hospital were ecstatic. News stories portrayed the infants as completely normal – except for the minor matter that they share a brain. Nobody dared to ask whether it would have been better for them not to have been born at all.”

Exactly! The story made me sad – it sent a chill up my spine. Personally, it reminds me of the cold randomness of the world. Today in the Globe there are three letters which agree wholeheartedly with Wente’s piece.

In my weekly picks appearing in the St. Albert Gazette in today’s issue, I chose two recent books that focus on the topic of conjoined twins. Here’s the blurb for both:

The Girls
By Lori Lansens

A moving but unsentimental novel about Rose and Ruby, “the girls”, conjoined twins growing up in small-town Ontario. Approaching their 30th birthday, Rose decides to write her autobiography, and suggests Ruby do the same. Through the alternating chapters, the novel reveals both the twins’ longing for independence and togetherness.

Chang and Eng
By Darin Strauss

A brilliant fictional imaging of the amazing true story of the conjoined twin brothers, Chang and Eng, from whom the term “Siamese twins” came. Born in poverty in 1811 on a houseboat on the Mekong River, the brothers eventually married two sisters from North Carolina, fathered 21 children, and lived for more than six decades together.

Margaret Wente published a book in 2004, mainly a collection of her Globe columns, called An Accidental Canadian: Reflections on my home and (not) native land. It includes many of my least favourite columns, such as her paen to her beloved SUV, but one can't deny she is an interesting writer.


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