About the Book
From birth and adolescence through maturity and old age, our lives are punctuated by sudden medical emergencies and by chronic illnesses, and by encounters with doctors, nurses, and other care-givers. Physicians and patients, operations and cures, suffering and compassion--all are part of the reality of human existence. Now, in a beautifully illustrated volume, R.S. Downie offers a vibrant, kaleidoscopic look at the healing arts, bringing together eclectic and engaging excerpts from fiction, poetry, drama, and letters, and by writers as diverse as Paraclesus, Francis Bacon, and Joseph Heller.
Here are celebrations and laments, such as in Sylvia Plath's Morning Song (Love set you going like a fat gold watch, / The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry / Took its place among the elements); in Hippocrates' From Epidemics; in Franz Schubert's eloquent last letter to Franz von Schober, telling of his illness; in Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor discussing TB and cancer as diseases of passion; or in Philip Larkin's acerbic verses on birth, aging, and mourning. Caretakers and caregivers share their thoughts, as in Walt Whitman's From the Wound-Dresser, Florence Nightingale's Notes on Nursing, and William Carlos Williams's Tract. And of course there is great need for humor and a lighter touch in healing, which Downie reflects in many offbeat and witty entries, ranging from Stephen Sondheim's Gee, Officer Krupke, to Richard Asher's Why are Medical Journals so Dull? (Many of the titles are unattractive.... Titles such as 'A Trial of 4.4-Diethyl-hydro-balderdashic Acid in Acute Coryzal Infections' are far better changed to 'A New Treatment for Colds'). And the anthology is rounded out by paintings and drawings.
The arts can be entertaining, moving, disturbing, consoling, and rich in insight, comments Downie in his preface. And as he demonstrates in this rich anthology, the arts can be healing as well. Indeed, not only will these selections entertain and enrich the perceptions of doctors and nurses (as well as anyone who enjoys fine writing), but as they give pleasure, they will also stretch the imagination and deepen the sympathies of all those who care for--or who one day will be--patients.
About the Author:
R.S. Downie is Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University, where one of his interests is collaborative writing with doctors and nurses. His leisure time is devoted to the arts.