Well, sheewt. It looks like the universe is out to disabuse me of the notion that people are either science or art. First there was Atul Gawande with his ridiculously readable Complications, and now the good Josh Bazell here turns out to have a BA in Eng. Lit and an MD in doctory things. I will indeed be damned.
I started reading a book called Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan a while ago and I got maybe 50 pages in before I realized I was not impressed by how much this guy was trying to impress me with his grittiness and rawness and coarseness and it’s just so fuckin’ real, man! And for the first two pages of Beat the Reaper, wherein a doctor is almost mugged but he cracks the guy’s arm and calls him ‘fuckhead’ like eight times before dumping his mugging ass in the emergency room, I felt the EXACT SAME WAY. Like, nineteen-year-old guys would be so down with this, and I am oddly not.
But I like to give a thing more than two pages, and it got good right quick. It is fast and it is smart and it is crude but the crudeness is one of the ingredients of the awesome, not some lame attempt to shoe-horn in some street-cred. Plus it is about doctors and the mafia and has a tank full of sharks and FOOTNOTES! I am powerless in the face of a well-placed footnote.
Ok so. Peter Brown is a medical resident, except that he used to be part of the mafia because his grandparents were murdered when he was fourteen, but now he’s in the witness protection program because he had to get out of the mafia because they put him in jail and there’s a girl involved and IT IS A LONG STORY! Liiiike, 300 pages long. There are hella flashbacks, is what I’m trying to tell you.
But so in the midst of these flashbacks he’s at the hospital where someone from the mafia has found him (accidentally, by being his patient) and is going to send someone else to get him (Brown) if he (Brown) doesn’t help him (the mafia-patient) not die of stomach cancer. Which is hard to do at the best times. Many hijinks ensue, and there is a scene at the end that is RULL GROSS but you will see it coming and can sort of skim your eyes over it.
I like to intentionally forget where a book rec came from (in this case, Trish) so that I can go in with a blank brain and that almost threw me under the bus this time. And maybe sort of hating it out the gate increased my overall enjoyment factor (I call it the ‘…the hell! This is kind of good! effect), but I was SO AMUSED!
Eight caterpillars, my friend.