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This is the third volume of poetry by Ron Charach, who is a psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada. Charach's poems evoke a wide array of experiences and topics, ranging from surreal dream poems to images of family vacations, from an adolescent biker ("White Laces") to medical imaging techniques ("MRI" and "The Use of Contrast to Study the Spine"). Charach's tone is generally light, frequently insightful, and often surprising.
While "healing" poems are scattered throughout the book, one section ("The Calling") focuses on images of Charach's medical specialty, psychiatry. In "Psychiatrists on the Subway" the poet imagines an off-duty psychiatrist who "sets his ears / on the night table / and prays for a night of long silence / from a God who prefers / to listen." In "Newton" he invites the reader to glimpse the professional life--but with a grain of salt--as he muses about a colleague who "gave so much Electro-Convulsive therapy / he wore wooden cufflinks and rubber-soled Wallabies."
"The Naked Physician" presents an image of a kind and gentle doctor whose failure to be a good husband and father "will be recorded in the final light." Other outstanding poems in this collection include "She Will No Longer Take Her Food," "Equipoise," "Someone Else's Fire," "Labour and Delivery," and "Past Wildflowers."
Laurence "Tubby" Passmore is a successful scriptwriter for a television sitcom, in his mid-fifties, married and the father of two grown children. He is indecisive and inexplicably depressed, unhappy with himself, his fat body, bald head, wonky knee, and impending impotence. At least, he is confident in his marriage to Sally, an attractive, self-made academic who enjoys sex; on weekly jaunts to London, he maintains a supportive but platonic relationship with the earthy Amy.
Seeking to alleviate his woes, he dabbles in acupuncture and aromatherapy and regularly attends a blind physiotherapist and a woman psychiatrist; the latter counsels him to write a journal. His wife suddenly announces her wish for a divorce and the television network invokes a contractual obligation to make unwelcome demands on his skills. These events shatter his unappreciated but complacent "angst" and deepen his identity crisis.
Laurence scrambles to rediscover himself. He reads the gloomy, Kierkegaard--because he identified with the titles--and he travels to the existentialist's Copenhagen. He pushes the boundaries of his relationship with Amy in a maudlin trip to Tenerife. He befriends a philosophic squatter, called "Grahame" (with an "e" no doubt to distinguish him from Graham Green whose "writing is a form of therapy" is an epigraph to this book). He flies wildly off to Los Angeles hoping to rekindle a one-night stand "manqué." Finally he recalls and tracks the Irish Catholic, Maureen, his first girlfriend from forty years before. Maureen has suffered too--the death of her son and breast cancer; he finds her on the Road to Compostella.
Geek Love is the saga of a traveling carnival, the owners of which try to save it from financial failure by using ingested chemicals and toxins to create the birth of amazing freaks for the show. The outcome is a family that is both proud and vain about its specialness. The narrative unfolds the intricacies of greed and jealousy that tear the family asunder, resulting in the deaths of some members, the madness of others, and the escape of one.
It is Olympia, the hunchback albino dwarf, who lives on to tell the story of the Binewski clan. Central to the heyday of the carnival is Doc P, a physician of questionable credentials who performs bizarre operations in the traveling hospital that moves with the carnival. The story moves relentlessly toward a climax and denouement that is sufficiently unimaginable to be consistent with the cast of characters.
Tuesdays with Morrie is a series of lessons a former (and now current) student has with his teacher (and now mentor) about facing one's death and living one's life. The author, Mitch Albom, is an award-winning sports columnist with the Detroit Free Press. A chance encounter propels Albom, guiltily and fearfully, to the bedside of Morrie Schwartz, his sociology teacher at Brandeis University nearly twenty years ago. [This chance encounter occurs electronically--Albom saw Morrie speaking about dying from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) with Ted Koppel on the Nightline television program].
Once together again, teacher and student decide to extend the visit over the remaining months of Morrie's life. Their Tuesday "seminars" explore perennial value issues of everyday life: "Family," "Emotions," "Money," "Marriage," "Our Culture," Fear of Aging," etc. The interchanges, fortunately, are studded with "pearls of wisdom" from Morrie.
Summary:Canadian artist, Robert Pope (d.1992), devoted the last years of his short life to documenting his decade-long experience as a patient with Hodgkin's Disease. Shortly after his diagnosis he was influenced by the 1945 autobiographical novel of Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Pope's early work explored the interconnectedness and pain of individuals bound by an imperfect love, in Smart's case for a married man. After his disease went into remission, he began to paint the patient's perspective on illness, hospitals, visitors, family, and health-care providers in a series of images that suggest the lighting of de la Tour, the photographic immediacy of Doisneau, and the menacing surrealism of de Chirico. His book, Illness and Healing: Images of Cancer (1991), became a bestseller.
In the "brave new world" of 632 A. F. (After Ford), universal human happiness has been achieved. (Well, almost.) Control of reproduction, genetic engineering, conditioning--especially via repetitive messages delivered during sleep--and a perfect pleasure drug called "Soma" are the cornerstones of the new society. Reproduction has been removed from the womb and placed on the conveyor belt, where reproductive workers tinker with the embryos to produce various grades of human beings, ranging from the super-intelligent Alpha Pluses down to the dwarfed semi-moron Epsilons.
Each class is conditioned to love its type of work and its place in society; for example, Epsilons are supremely happy running elevators. Outside of their work, people spend their lives in constant pleasure. This involves consuming (continually buying new things, whether they need them or not), participating in elaborate sports, and free-floating sex. While uninhibited sex is universal and considered socially constructive, love, marriage, and parenthood are viewed as obscene.
The story concerns Bernard, an alpha whose programming is a bit off--he is discontented and desires to spend time alone just thinking or looking at the stars. At one point he takes Lenina on a vacation to the savage reservation in New Mexico. There he discovers John (the Savage), son of Linda who had visited the reservation more than 20 years previously and was accidentally left behind. When she discovered she was pregnant (the ultimate humiliation!), she had to remain among the savages. John returns to the Brave New World where he is feted as the Visiting Savage. However, he cannot adapt to this totally alien society and, ultimately, he takes his own life.
The writer, a comparative literature professor, elected to spend one full semester as an up-close observer in a medical school anatomy lab during the student dissection experience. He approached the experiment with the clearly articulated intention of writing about the lab, the instructors, the students, and their subjects. The book takes the reader dissection by dissection through the socialization process, as well as the technical content, of the class--from the first cut to the final memorial services for the cadavers at the closure of the term.
A nephrologist is named in a lawsuit after serving as a consulting physician in a diabetes case. The diabetic patient had had a serious infection and later his leg was amputated; he apparently felt the doctors neglected the seriousness of his condition. When the dialysis unit treating this patient requests to transfer his care to the author, whose unit is in the patient's home town, the author is uncertain what to do.
The author is angry about the law suit, and his colleagues counsel him to refuse to take this patient. But after realizing that the lawsuit was merely a reflection of the patient's suffering, and that he needs the same compassion and care as any other human being, the author agrees to accept the patient. The author discovers that his patient is a meek, gentle man; over time, he helps him come to terms with his illness, his disability, and his approaching death. Eventually the patient drops his malpractice suit.
The story begins in 1882, when Friedrich Nietzsche's beautiful and mysterious former lover convinces the famous Viennese physician and mentor to Sigmund Freud, Joseph Breuer, to cure Nietzsche of his "despair" so that the world will not be deprived of the "most important philosopher of the next 100 years." Breuer is known throughout Europe for his use of hypnosis and the "talking treatment" that have been successful in the treatment of hysteria.
Since Nietzsche is skeptical of what Breuer can do for him, Breuer offers the challenge that they might help each other. Through subterfuge, Breuer convinces Nietzsche to remain for 1 month in the Lauzon Clinic. Their bargain: Breuer agrees to treat Nietzsche for his chronic migraine headaches, if Nietzsche, the great philosopher, will listen to and cure Breuer of his own despair. What follows is a brilliant tour de force in which the two men engage in daily discussion, bantering, and intrigue, much like a chess game, jockeying for position, as both men are transformed in unpredictable and astonishing ways.
In a South American town during the early years of this century, a retired doctor long known as an eccentric flatly refuses treatment to victims of a riot. Years later, the doctor hangs himself. For the vengeful town, the issue becomes whether he will receive a proper burial or be allowed to rot in the house where he had lately secluded himself.
This issue becomes the focal point of recollections, from many points of view, of fragments of the doctor's bizarre history. An old military man, who was originally the doctor's sponsor and host, braves the town's anger and forces his family members to help him carry out the burial. As it turns out, no one remembers the outrage apart from a few town officials, and the burial takes place without incident.