In 1988 Jean Mallinson, a West Vancouver poet and essayist, entered hospital for abdominal surgery. She came through the operation without mishap, and afterwards her doctor prescribed gentamicin, an antibiotic intended to stave off infection during recovery. Several days later Mallinson felt an “odd unsteadiness”; she was unable to walk without support or even to move without disorientation. The gentamicin had destroyed her balance function. Ever since she has staggered through an unstable world which seems to tilt and swirl around her. It turns out that the medical community knows the drug will have this side effect in a small number of cases but considers the risk worth taking. No one had told Mallinson that such an outcome was possible, and she was left permanently disabled by the very drug that was supposed to protect her. In Terra Infirma: A Life Unbalanced (Windshift Press), Mallinson recounts what it means to be a self- described “wobbler.” “It is like being absolutely, infinitely drunk,” she writes. Mallinson is not the self-dramatizing type. I have known her for several years and until I read her book I had no idea how profound her disability was. “It is a fact,” she writes; “all I can do is adjust.” Her purpose in writing Terra Infirma is not to attract sympathy but to explain her way of being in the world to non-wobblers. “If the rarity of my disability sets me apart from others, the normalcy of my response links me with them. No-one is safe, but our resources to live with and through a disability are shared and endless . . .” As much as the medical side of the story, I was struck by the deep consolation Mallinson finds in literature. In moments of despair it is the words of her favourite poets that see her through. If science betrayed her, it seems that art is her deliverance.