Pain Studies

192 pages


ISBN: 9781942658696

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.99
ISBN: 9781942658689

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“Lisa Olstein’s luminous meditation on pain winds around a beautifully curated series of artifacts. Bits of poetry, ancient medicine, brain science, television episodes, excerpts from the trial of Joan of Arc, and works of art support the spiderweb on which her insights hang like condensed mist. A fascinating, totally seductive read!”

Eula Biss, author of Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays and On Immunity: An Inoculation

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“Lisa Olstein’s remarkable Pain Studies is a book built of brain and nerve and blood and heart, about what it means to live with pain. Irreverent and astute, synthesizing the personal and the historical, popular culture and poetry and visual art, Pain Studies will change how you think about living with a body in our beautiful and doomed world.”

Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck and Bowlaway

“These spectacular sentences chart a thrilling investigation into pain, language, and Lisa Olstein’s own exile from what Woolf called ‘the army of the upright.’ On a search path through art, science, poetry, and prime-time television, Olstein aims her knife-bright compassion at the very thing we’re all running from. Pain Studies is a masterpiece.”

Leni Zumas, author of The Listeners and Red Clocks

“Lisa Olstein offers readers an eclectic and deeply personal set of meditations on pain as experienced and remembered, inflicted and endured, perceived and denied. Through neuroscience, literature, and history, from hit TV shows to classical philosophy, this is a unique and fascinating contribution to the literature of pain in general, and migraine in particular.”

Katherine Foxhall, author of Migraine: A History

“In Pain Studies, Lisa Olstein paints a sharp-witted and insightful picture of the rollercoaster ride that is called pain. Her own experiences allow her to approach the topic in a way that provides relevant reading to anyone treating or living with chronic pain. As doctors, we need to find more effective ways to help patients dealing with pain. This book is a step in that direction.”

Jill Heytens, M.D., neurologist

“Like a prismatic series of artist’s sketches, Pain Studies offers a dazzling variety of perspectives—personal, political, phenomenological, lyrical—on the unanswerable question of human suffering. Through virtuosic readings of everything from pre-Socratic philosophy to the trial transcripts of Joan of Arc to the cultural semiotics of House M.D., Lisa Olstein brilliantly extends the literature of pain into our contemporary historical moment. But this searching work also illuminates how pain studies us. Turning the last page on Olstein’s agonistic anatomy, we’ve come to know one of hurt’s intimate acquaintances, unbroken by her suffering, or if broken in parts, then painstakingly remade.”

Srikanth Reddy, author of Voyager and Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry

“Grabs readers’ attention, even those without a history of chronic illness. . . . Its analysis spans multiple perspectives and includes Olstein’s sincere recollections, making this extended lyrical essay shine.”

Library Journal

“Fascinating. . . . This extended lyric essay succeeds in delivering an intriguing look at a set of questions with wide relevance.”

Publishers Weekly

“Erudite. . . . Olstein’s blending of the personal and the academic is compelling. . . . A quality addition to the literature on pain.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Olstein writes with eloquence and power. . . . To someone living with chronic pain, this book is pure catharsis, a warm voice in an endless tunnel of dark saying ‘I hear you. I understand you.’ To anyone else, this book is the first step toward empathy. Pain Studies must be read by all.”

Laura Graveline, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)

In this extended lyric essay, a poet mines her lifelong experience with migraine to deliver a marvelously idiosyncratic cultural history of pain—how we experience, express, treat, and mistreat it. Her sources range from the trial of Joan of Arc to the essays of Virginia Woolf and Elaine Scarry to Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of Gregory House on House M.D. As she engages with science, philosophy, visual art, rock lyrics, and field notes from her own medical adventures (both mainstream and alternative), she finds a way to express the often-indescribable experience of living with pain. Eschewing simple epiphanies, Olstein instead gives us a new language to contemplate and empathize with a fundamental aspect of the human condition.

This book was published with the support of a University of Texas at Austin Subvention Grant awarded by the Office of the President

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Excerpt from Pain Studies

Upcoming Events

Read an excerpt from Pain Studies at Post45 and come out to hear Lisa Olstein discuss her new book with writers such as Eula Biss, Paul Lisicky, and Leni Zumas at events across the country.