Jasper Glass and his brother Jonathan are medical students in Toronto, circa 1975. Their father is a repressed, language professor endlessly writing a never-to-be published book on French idioms.  Jasper is having an affair with a married classmate, and he lusts after his dissection partner, Valerie. But Valerie isn’t interested.

In its wisdom, the medical faculty has decided that electives in the humanities must be taken to broaden the educational experience. Jasper and his friends opt for literature. When the graduate student assigned to the teaching task dissolves in angst over how to communicate with savage medical students, the young, Mexican poet, Roberto Moreno, becomes their instructor. The students love Roberto, and through him they learn to love poetry too. Valerie especially loves Roberto. Jasper learns to deal with it.

Over the course of the year, the friends have many adventures. Jasper rescues a young woman from assault, and she, in turn, defends him from a wrongful accusation. Jonathan loses his way and fails miserably. They meet a sinister psychiatry resident who abuses his position with patients, colleagues, and students. Only slowly do they realize the full potential of his dangerous mind. They deal with that too. 


For readers of this database, the literary encounters of medical students is particularly apt. Those who survived medical education immediately after the 1960s will experience nostalgia with the vivid description of period anatomy lessons, electives, and clinics. Toronto of the 1970s is a major character, especially the gothic horror of its old mental hospital--now gone.  Liberal use of humour and outrageous scenarios soften the unethical, egotistical, and inadequate personalities that people the story in clever, ruthless sketches.

Parabolist is the name of a movement of disaffected poets, who through their art strive to concentrate multiple sources of energy—and meaning—into a single focus that can be illuminating or destructive. The title therefore heralds the dramatic conclusion in which the friends focus their energies against medical evil.



Doubleday Canada division of Random House

Place Published




Page Count