Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review Tuesday: 'The Pen & the Stethoscope'

Today’s ‘Review Tuesday’. Synchronicity. Wikipedia says it’s a concept first described by Carl Jung, i.e. the experience of two or more events apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner [1]. Its meaningfulness distinguishes it from mere simultaneity. Last Thursday my cyberfriend Wordsmith [2] sent me an email titled: ‘Something fine to read’. That ‘something’ is an essay by a favourite writer of his – William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) [3] – on being a physician and a writer [4]. Williams’s essential premise is that doctors, being keen observers of all aspects of the human condition, are disposed to being writers and poets. The synchronicity? I received Wordsmith’s email as I was finishing The Pen & the Stethoscope. Published in 2010, it’s a 211-page collection of 15 short stories written by 15 doctors – including four Australians. Its nine non-fiction and six fiction stories vary in topic and writing quality – and thus their ability to attract and hold my interest. My picks are those by the three best-known medical writers: Atul Gawande, Peter Goldsworthy and Oliver Sacks. I don’t doubt doctors, at least good ones, are skillful observers of humans. But I don’t know if, as Williams suggests, doctors’ vocational skills give them the front-running in the writing stakes. For it’s one thing to collect material to write about, and quite another to craft it into beautiful writing. For all this, on balance I’m pleased I read The Pen & the Stethoscope.

1 comment:

Chrows25 aka Leather Woman said...

Now I do remember that the fair Vivienne likes Margaret Attwood's writing which of course puts her out front right away. One day Ms Attwood was doing a book signing and a surgeon went up to her and announced he was retiring soon and that he was going to become a writer. To which Ms Attwood replied "oh and i plan to take up surgery when I retire".