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Philip Simmons, Ph.D., was just 35 years old in 1993 when he learned that he had ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a fatal neuromuscular condition that usually kills its victims in two to five years. With two young children and at the start of a promising academic and literary career, he suddenly had to say goodbye.  And by learning the art of dying he succeeded, against the odds, in learning the art of living. Already a widely published author of fiction and literary criticism, he now shares his hard-won insights with this book.
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"Philip Simmons is that rare and necessary human being—one with the courage to see things as they are, for better and worse. He possesses an invaluable gift: the capacity to take the rest of us where he has been and where he is going."

Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, former editor, The New York Times Book Review

  Philip Simmons was Associate Professor of English at Lake Forest College in Illinois, where he taught literature and creative writing for nine years before being disabled by Lou Gehrig's disease. He was a frequent speaker and workshop leader for churches and civic groups, and was contributing editor of the UU World, the journal of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

He earned his B.A. in English and Physics from Amherst College, his MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan.

His short fiction has appeared in Playboy, Ploughshares, The Massachusetts Review, TriQuarterly, and the Alaska Quarterly Review. His criticism has been published in numerous scholarly journals, and his book, Deep Surfaces, on postmodern American fiction, was published by the University of Georgia Press in 1997.


Praise for Learning to Fall:

“Pure poetry, tinged with irony and humor, in the voice of a present-day Thoreau whose Walden is his family, the landscape of New Hampshire, and a young body fading away.  A deeply moving rhapsody on inhabiting the human condition.”

--Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living and of Wherever You Go, There You Are 

“Generous and genuine, like water from a deep well, halfway between a meditation and a dance, this book is an act of grace.”              

--Jack Kornfield, author of A Path With Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry  

“Philip Simmons writes with clarity and a passion for honesty, laced with wit.  An extraordinary book.”

 --Elaine Pagels, Princeton University, author of The Gnostic Gospels

“Not only has Philip Simmons figured out the meaning of life for himself, with prodigious literary grace, he has figured out how to tell us too.  Required reading for Basic Humanity 101.”

--Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author of Invisible Lines of Connection

“As intelligent as it is inspirational, LEARNING TO FALL glows with vitality and honest hope.”

-- Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul 

"Gentle, beautifully realized and completely inspirational.  A wonderful meditation on fallibility in a world of grace."

--Scott Turow

"For anyone who already loves life — or needs to love it more. A wonderful achievement!"

--Balfour Mount, M.D.


Philip Simmons on radio and television:

(requires Real Player, which can be downloaded free at http://www.real.com/ )

Catch Phil's interview on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross!

Listen to Phil's interview on New Hampshire Public Radio, "Front Porch" with John Walters.

On "All Things Considered," NPR science and health reporter Richard Knox explores Phil's life and the extraordinary group of friends who help him live it.

See the segment about Phil on New Hampshire Public Television
(scroll forward to the last third of the program; Phil begins at the 17 minute mark)

"Here and Now" host Robin Young interviews Phil and Dr. Balfour Mount on the difference between healing and cure, following Phil's speech at the Harvard Medical School. Produced by WBUR in Boston.  (scroll forward to the last quarter of the program; Phil begins at just past the 39 minute mark)

On June 13, 2001, Phil was the featured guest on NPR's "The Todd Mundt Show" You can hear it online at audible.com



News & Reviews

Goodthings.com reviews "Learning to Fall"

To use any printed information, contact Kathryn Field at kathrynfieldfineart@gmail.com