In August 2008, the art critic Tom Lubbock was told by his doctors that they had discovered a malignant tumour in his brain, and that he had only a short time to live. Five years was the optimistic sum; a few months was probably a more realistic prediction. Thanks partly to the magnificent care he received from the NHS, and partly (one likes to think) to his inner resources and the heartening love of his family and many friends, Tom lived on until January 2011 – a couple of weeks after his fifty-third birthday. As a writer by vocation and need as well as by trade, Tom kept a diary of his experiences, detailing his treatment, his feelings about leaving behind his wife, Marion, and their small son, Eugene, and the strange, brutal fact of confronting death at much too young an age.
Until Further Notice, I Am Alive has been edited from those diaries, and it is a heart-rending, thrillingly intelligent book. To be sure, I am a partial reader: Tom was a friend for more than thirty years, and I was one of the dozens, maybe hundreds of pals who visited