Book Review | 'Cutting for Stone,' by Abraham Verghese - The New York Times
And there is too unquestioning a reliance on Ryszard Kapuscinski's The Emperor; Kapuscinski was himself an observer from another land, and he had his own agenda. As, apparently, did whoever designed the cover: it's the worst kind of laziness to depict an "African coastline" as if everything on that continent were interchangeable - never mind that it's a book set in cities.
What coast there was, until Eritrea gained independence in , consisted of desert and volcanic rock rather than lush palm trees; Ethiopia no longer has a coast at all. But all the rich detail in the world is as nothing if you don't have command of emotion and narrative.
Stitching up the surgeon's life
One could argue, given everything from ER to House, that medicine cannot help but be dramatic, but that isn't necessarily true: Verghese's achievement is to make the reader feel there really is something at stake - birth, love, death, war, loyalty. There's no smug postmodern self-undermining otherwise known as irony here: the mythic arises seamlessly from the quotidian; telepathy or saintly intercessions are simply accepted - as they often are in Ethiopian life.
You conserve pages because you don't want it to end. But irony is a useful thing, too, when considered as an ability to hold contradictory meanings in suspension. Richard Eyre compared this book to Chekhov and Shakespeare, an enthusiasm presumably prompted by the variety and colour of Verghese's world, its earthiness and drama, its concreteness of detail and unselfconscious swing.
And this, often accompanied by a real delicacy and honesty, is pleasing, but there was an extra element I missed: a serious playfulness of meaning, a compassion arising from an understanding of perspective and of all that cannot be controlled. This is a book narrated by a surgeon, and structured as a surgeon might structure it: after the body has been cut open and explored everything is returned to its place and carefully sutured up - which is not, in the end, how life actually works.
And, like surgery, there's a certain brutality involved, particularly evident in the novel's gender politics.
Cutting for Stone Reader’s Guide
A major strand of the plot is the love that one twin, Marion, has for a girl he knows from childhood, Genet; but there is surprisingly little imaginative projection of what Genet might feel. Which of course is a character's prerogative - except that it was a niggle I had with The Tennis Partner as well: Verghese was recklessly honest about his feelings and vulnerabilities, but there might have been a bit more sympathy for what his friend was suffering. Perhaps this is a function of the detachment of observation and, specifically, a medical manifestation of it: a doctor must be the most attentive observer, but also, ultimately, a judge as well.
Truly seeing someone does not come naturally, in any context, it is a skill which takes time and effort.
http://maisonducalvet.com/castrocontrigo-conocer-gente-gratis.php This initial medical training begins with a physical examination, with feeling a pulse, with observation. Marion describes the sensation of a surging pulse under his fingers, and the joy of the medical realm that it introduced him to:.
You needed a guide. You had to know what to look for, but also how to look. The importance of this aspect of medicine and healing is reflected in the recurrence of failures of observation, of missed signs. It goes unnoticed by both her lover and her colleagues, resulting in a dangerous delivery and her eventual death. The novel makes this point repeatedly: in medicine and in life perceptiveness is a valuable and vital skill.
Depicting medicine through the lens of fiction can be a reminder that healthcare is always fundamentally about people, rather than theories or procedures, something which Cutting for Stone never forgets. View more posts by Veronica Heney.
Subscribe to Veronica Heney's posts. Blogger Log in. Verghese answers this question emphatically: with kindness.
Further Reading Verghese A. N Engl J Med. Verghese A. A touch of sense.