AT AGE 21, PAUL BENDIX WAS SHOT in a street robbery and paralyzed-and in Dance Without Steps, he takes us on a journey through the next four decades of his life. We stand at his elbow as he makes pea soup with one unfeeling hand. We share his self-conscious wheelchair journeys through suburban downtowns, and we learn the perils inherent in simply taking a shower. Yet Dance Without Steps has no room for self-pity as its author looks straight at the life he has been dealt and at the fierce complexities that have come with it. There is nothing Bendix is afraid to look at, nothing that unsettles his humane equanimity and philosophic poise, not even when he looks back unflinchingly at the shooting itself that was to leave him able to use only one arm and one leg. If not with ease, then with humor, dignity, and grace, Bendix makes the most of a life of never-ending accommodation. His disability worsens over the decades, yet his life expands-as in his building a good marriage and balancing the roles of helped and helper. He travels with his beloved wife, gardens assiduously, observes the curiosities of the world around him-and, always, he writes. As a boy, the only responsible figure among a weak father, younger brother, and profoundly neurotic mother, Bendix gained the habit of indispensability to others, along with the tolerance, generosity, and forbearance that were to remain his through life. The disaster that befell him would have crushed others, but his own courage is boundless-not only when he is shot but again, years later, when his wife dies of cancer and leaves a hole in his life the size of half the earth. In his ability to observe without judging, to suffer without self-pity, and to laugh without derision, Bendix is in the company of Chaucer, Swift, and Beckett, all the while writing in a limpid style akin to those of a Joseph Addison or E.B.White. His book is a unique and clear-eyed journey, brave beyond imagining.