The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for hiccups

Those who find the common remedies largely ineffective should equip themselves with The Fit, by Philip Hensher

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The Independent Culture

Ailment: Hiccups

Cure: The Fit by Philip Hensher

Hold your breath, drink a glass of water backwards, persuade a friend to give you a fright – the cures for hiccups are manifold and sometimes as surprising as the hiccups themselves, striking as they do without warning, and often at the worst possible time. If one of these classic remedies works for you, then you don't need this cure – although if you like the fright approach and don't always have an ally to hand, keep some literary shocks stashed in your handbag. Our favourite shocking moments are to be found within the pages of Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy), Legend of a Suicide (David Vann), and Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn). Those who find the common remedies largely ineffective, however, should equip themselves with The Fit, by Philip Hensher. The narrator, John, has the hiccups for an entire month, and tries a large number of cures, one of which may work for you too.

The attack of hiccups starts shortly after John discovers that his wife has left him. He begins with the classic cures (as above), but soon moves on to the more unusual – drinking a whole bottle of champagne, smoking a cigarette, snorting cocaine, kissing – discovering along the way some interesting facts about hiccups, including that someone once had them (according to his copy of The Guinness Book of Records,) for 17 years. Several shocks occur, quite by chance – including a German man with three rucksacks turning up on his doorstep announcing that he's in love with him. None of it cures his hiccups.

And then, finally, something does. You'll have to read to the end to find out what – but suffice to say that, as with most literary afflictions, our hero's mental state has a lot to do with both cause and cure. Join John on his journey of self-discovery, either to trigger a similar one of your own, or simply for the empathetic company of a fellow sufferer. No one should wrestle with a diaphragm in spasm all alone.