Williams's autobiography recounts his life from his first memory ("being put outdoors after the blizzard of '88") to the composition of "Patterson" and a trip to the American West in 1950. The book's 58 short chapters epitomize the writer's episodic and impressionistic style, presenting a series of scenes and meditations, rather than a narrative life story.


Chapter 43, "Of Medicine and Poetry," and chapter 54, "The Practice," are well known set-pieces frequently anthologized and employed in Literature and Medicine courses. Many other chapters might be usefully abstracted in the same way. Among these are: chapter 17, "Hell's Kitchen," about Williams's internship at the Nursery and Childrens' Hospital in Manhattan; chapter 37, "A Maternity Case," which reads exactly like one of Williams's doctor stories; and chapter 44, "The City of the Hospital," describing the dynamics and politics of medicine.

Here is an interesting quotation from chapter 44: "It's no different with medicine, a rat race if there ever was one, in which the ones most devoted to humanity often come in second best" (296).


First published in 1951


New Directions

Place Published

New York



Page Count