Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


The True Story of a Rare Illness

by Ben Watt

“Told with great wit and without self-pity, Patient is a sobering look at how life can suddenly be transformed into a humbling vaudeville of tests, IV’s, catheters, and bedpans.” –The New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 192
  • Publication Date September 16, 1998
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3583-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $15.00

About The Book

In the summer of 1992, on the eve of an American tour, Ben Watt, one half of the Billboard-topping pop duo Everything But The Girl, was taken to a London hospital complaining of chest pain. He didn’t leave for two and a half months. Watt had developed a rare life-threatening disease that initially baffled doctors. By the time he was allowed home, his ravaged body was forty-six pounds lighter and he was missing most of his small intestine. Watt injects pathos and humor into his medical nightmare, writing about his childhood, reflecting on his family and on his shared life with band member and partner Tracey Thorn. The result is a provocative and affecting memoir about life, illness, and survival.


“Told with great wit and without self-pity, Patient is a sobering look at how life can suddenly be transformed.” –New York Times Book Review

“[A] flawless telling of his unexpected and drawn-out battle with an extremely rare–and nearly fatal–illness.” –New Yorker

“Watt’s spare, delicate prose and natural humility are sweet enough to make this bitter pill of a book go down like candy.” –Entertainment Weekly

“Funny, frightening, and piercingly vulnerable.” –Interview

“The reader comes away with an unforgettable understanding of the transformative nature of severe illness. . . . Few have told such a compelling life-story as skillfully.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Watt is a sharp observer and a gifted writer. . . . What comes through in this very remarkable story is the author’s sense of self and of the order and surprise of life.” –Seattle Times

“Unlike so many people who’ve looked death in the eye and lived (long enough) to write about it, Watt doesn’t wax philosophical or draw too improbably many lessons from being desperately ill; he just records his own consciousness as it shrinks to the size of his body and his immediate surroundings, which in fact tells us more about what illness means and what it does to us than any sort of positive-minded propaganda.” –Village Voice Literary Supplement

“Lucid and affecting.” –Time Out

“Watt writes like a man in a precarious lifeboat keeping his eyes firmly on the life continuing on shore. . . . It’s his becoming modesty that allows the book the feel of triumph without ostentation.” –Boston Phoenix

“At once horrifying and humorous . . . [Watt] proves himself to be a talented and insightful author, his prose enlivened by his songwriter’s eye for detail.” –The Stranger

“Watt is a keen observer of hospital custom, from doctors’ bedside manners, the comfort supplied by nurses, the sameness of daily routine.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Watt’s unsentimental clarity places his book with the best examples of the form. . . . Patient‘s most vivid passages–the only times Watt uses poetic language–capture the way intense pain shrinks your sense of time to the present, and your sense of place to the body. But the book’s most original segments are calm; through observation, Watt offers a new kind of guidebook, a patient’s guide.” –San Francisco Bay Guardian

“A vivid, finely wrought look at having one’s future yanked away, and surviving physically and emotionally.” –Dallas Morning Star-Telegram

“[Watt] chronicles here his nightmarish experiences with humor and an admirable lack of self-pity. . . . His engrossing account is painful yet poetic.” –Publishers Weekly

“A simple chronicle of the curious mundanities faced by a common person under exceptional duress . . . dispassionate but harrowing, self-focused but not self-obsessed, by turns clear-sighted and pain-blinded. . . . Watt’s plain-spoken account takes a position among the growing literature of the past couple of decades that seeks to demystify the body, to expose its wants, needs, and workings. By studiously hewing to the body’s essentials, even when they prove distasteful, Watt opens himself up without forfeiting privacy or his self-respect.” –Washington City Paper

“Watt wisely focuses on the fascinating, gruesome, and morbid aspects of his medical ordeal. . . . An artful exposition on one human’s loss of humanity.” –SF Weekly

“An astonishingly assured anatomy of his ordeal, by turns terrifying, mordantly funny and intensely moving. Many people suffer the pain and indignities of medical treatment; but few have written about it with quite such alarming vividness or clarity.” –Daily Telegraph

“At once a detailed layman’s account of extended illness and a harrowing biography of a life changed by it. Patient is the rare sort of book that allows you to feel with the author–from fear to helplessness and ultimately acceptance and triumph.” –Weekly Alibi

“Honest and colorful. . . . Watt’s romantic imagination survives the beating his body and mind took as a result of his illness but what really keeps Patient going is the way he injects those desperate months with humor and insight.” –Austin Chronicle


A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

A New York Newsday and Village Voice Literary Supplement favorite book of the year

Finalist for the Esquire (UK) best nonfiction award