Each Tuesday I’ll bring two items or people into focus. They may be books, authors, lists, whatever turned my head, landing on my radar.
Words cast long shadows, drain like salve, or perhaps solidify us. These top picks tackle subjects that heal: a medical practitioner and a graphic novelist both use their memoirs, painting enlightening portraits.
GOD’S HOTEL: A Doctor, a Hospital and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet (Riverhead Books – Penguin imprint). Dr. Sweet pens her experiences serving the destitute at San Francisco’s Old Laguna Honda Hospital, aptly nicknamed God’s Hotel. Her fresh approach reaches back centuries to lost practices, comparing people to gardens, as opposed to the modern-school notion that people are machines, “…when a plant is injured, it repairs itself. Hildegard [a 12th century nun, mystic, and medical practitioner wrote Hildegard of Bingen’s Medicine, a guidebook charting treatment of the body as a caretaker would a plant] called this power of self-healing, viriditas—“greening power”—from the Latin viridis, green, and she believed that humans possessed it, too. Dr. Abigail Zuger suggests, “…if you’re one of the millions of doctors and patients out there choking on their dust, this is the book for you. Its compulsively readable chapters go down like restorative sips of cool water, and its hard-core subversion cheers like a shot of gin.” (full article: NYT, May 28, 2012)
Alison Bechdel (author of Fun Home: a family tragicomic) returns, bringing us Are You My Mother? (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Bechdel examines her relationship with her mother, a distant and unhappy woman married to a closeted gay man, through the lens an emotionally and physically empty childhood. This bold look “…leads readers from the fascinating life and work of the iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life.” David L. Ulin suggests (full article: LA Times, May 20, 2012) “That’s what a memoirist does: Take the vapor trail of the past and reconstruct it, imposing meaning on the chaos of real life.” Read an excerpt…