The time is 1954 and the place Boston. Dan Lassiter is a first year medical student back from Inchon and the Korean War, taking--and in danger of failing--anatomy when he becomes obsessed with his cadaver, a young and very well proportioned man he thinks must have been a boxer. As he tries to pass anatomy under the withering and authoritarian attention of Dr. Nathan Snider, a stern anatomist who worships at the altar of Vesalius, Dan discovers that his cadaver is a very physically fit young man, whose death fascinates him and about whom his professor will not yield any information. Using his newspaper connections with one of several women he's dating, Dan discovers that the cadaver Dr. Snider refused to identify was Rick Ferrar, a fearless boxer who was fast friends with Lemuel Harper, an African-American and also, like Dan, a veteran of the Korean War.

The remainder of the book resolves the familial baggage Dan is carrying from his parents' death and then his brother's; his quest for the character and mode of death of Rick Ferrar; the intertwining of his and Rick's personalities, girlfriend, and destinies; and his medical school career, which at times seems more a hobby than a serious pursuit. By novel's end all the subplots are resolved and Dan, attending a funeral for the class's cadavers, volunteers to work with Dr. Snider in the anatomy lab to improve his mediocre knowledge of anatomy.


A prolific popular and scientific endocrinologist, Dr. Goldberg graduated from Tufts Medical School in 1956. The Anatomy Lesson was his second novel and the first of the Dan Lassiter series, projected to be ten when finished.

This novel, a classical medical Bildungsroman, is a thoughtful attempt to answer the question every medical student has as he or she delves, literally, into what William Carlos Williams called "the secret gardens of the self" of his patients (The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions, 1951, p. 288): Who was she? Did she have a family? What was his life like and how did he end up here? At the same time, Dr. Goldberg successfully engages the reader with the same questions about Dan, as though Rick Ferrar were asking them. The mesh of these two troubled men's lives is well explicated although at times the irony feels a little far-fetched.



Place Published

New York



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