I was up at the cabin, reading Blindness by José Saramago, translated from the Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero (Harcourt Brace & Co.) when the power went out. It was about four in the afternoon so I could still read by the light from the window, but I knew it would be getting dark soon so I tore myself away long enough to make dinner because I hate cooking by flashlight. As I chopped vegetables and opened cans, I felt like I was preparing to go blind myself: getting a few things done while I could still see. In Blindness, people go blind with no warning; no time to cook dinner, pull over in the car, finish making love. The first few hundred victims are quarantined in an abandoned insane asylum, where their lives become concentrated on eating and finding somewhere to evacuate their bowels; meanwhile, outside, the epidemic spreads until it seems that everyone has gone blind. Everyone except the wife of one of the first victims, who gets into the ambulance with her husband and, when the attendants refuse to take her, has the wherewithal to say, "You'll have to take me as well, I've just gone blind this very minute." She hasn't, but she keeps up her cover so that she will not be separated from her husband. Eventually she is able to lead a small band of blind people out of the asylum and around a city where everyone is blind. No more electricity, running water or other civilizing amenities. I don't enjoy end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it stories and I wouldn't have tried this book if I hadn't heard it recommended on the radio, but Saramago's lyrical writing makes this thought-provoking story easy to take.