A Brain Wider Than the Sky

A Brain Wider Than the Sky

A Migraine Diary

By Andrew Levy

Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781416572503, 304pp.

Publication Date: May 26, 2009


With more than one in ten Americans -- and more than one in five families -- affected, the phenomenon of migraine is widely prevalent and often ignored or misdiagnosed. By his mid-forties, Andrew Levy's migraines were occasional reminders of a persistent illness that he'd wrestled with half his life, though he had not fully contemplated their physical and psychological influence on the individual, family, and society at large. Then in 2006 Levy was struck almost daily by a series of debilitating migraines that kept him essentially bedridden for months, imprisoned by pain and nausea that retreated only briefly in gentler afternoon light.

When possible, Levy kept careful track of what triggered an onset -- the "thin, taut" pain from drinking a bourbon, the stabbing pulse brought on by a few too many M&M's -- and in luminous prose recounts his struggle to live with migraines, his meticulous attempts at calibrating his lifestyle to combat and avoid them, and most tellingly, the personal relationship a migraineur develops -- an almost Stockholm syndrome-like attachment -- with the indescribable pain, delirium, and hallucinations.

Levy read about personalities and artists throughout history with migraine -- Alexander Pope, Nietzsche, Freud, Virginia Woolf, even Elvis -- and researched the treatments and medical advice available for migraine sufferers. He candidly describes his rehabilitation with the aid of prescription drugs and his eventual reemergence into the world, back to work and writing. An enthralling blend of memoir and provocative analysis, A Brain Wider Than the Sky offers rich insights into an illness whose effects are too often discounted and whose sufferers are too often overlooked.

About the Author

Andrew Levy is Edna Cooper Chair in English and Director of the Writer’s Studio at Butler University in Indianapolis. He is author of The Culture and Commerce of the American Short Story, co-author of Creating Fiction:  A Writer's Companion, and co-editor of Postmodern American Fiction:  A Norton Anthology. His most recent book, The First Emancipator (Random House) was cited as a “Best of 2005” by the Chicago Tribune, Amazon, and Booklist, and received the Slatten Award from the Virginia Historical Society.  His essays and reviews have appeared in Harper's, the American Scholar, Dissent, Best American Essays, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago, and elsewhere, and he has been a guest on numerous national radio programs and on C-Span. Levy currently lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Siobhan, and son, Aedan.

Praise For A Brain Wider Than the Sky

"A most remarkable book. A Brain Wider Than the Sky is learned, witty, allusive, and poetic -- and migraine becomes, for Levy, a window into the whole landscape of body and mind, health and disease, and the sheer complexity of being alive." -- Oliver Sacks, author of Migraine and Musicophilia

"This is a wonderful hybrid of a book about that most metaphysical of pains, the migraine headache. Part memoir, part historical inquiry, part philosophical meditation, A Brain Wider Than the Sky takes its reader on a physical and psychological journey and shows us that beauty and tranquility can be found in the least likely of places." -- Ann Packer, author of Songs With out Words and The Dive from Clausen's Pier