Doctors and Other Casualties

Stewart Massad, Author Warner Books $18.95 (325p) ISBN 978-0-446-51683-9
This first collection by a physician author will undoubtedly be compared with the recent fiction of Perri Klass and Ethan Canin, both of whom have managed to combine medical and literary careers. Massad need not worry; truth be told, this volume of eight previously unpublished stories is superior writing. All of these tales (some quite expansive, almost of novella length) concern physicians, and all rely on first-person narration. But the individual behind that voice varies a great deal--from an obstetrician's pregnant wife in upstate New York to a bitter old infectious disease specialist estranged from his family to a doctor on vacation with his nurse girlfriend in Spain--and Massad is quite convincing in each guise. In ``Casualties,'' he assumes the ultimate narrator role: that of physician as patient (suffering from ``acute myelogenous leukemia,'' in fact); his chronicle of in-hospital treatment and its indignity, moving back home with parents, readmission and verbal sparring with the institutional chaplain is moving without being maudlin. Indeed, although much of this material could easily lend itself to sentimentality, the writing is admirably restrained, perhaps tempered by the distancing process medical personnel must undergo. While Massad renders violence directed at an abortionist, the bittersweet taste of artery-hardening pecan pie in a North Carolina physician's mouth and the lonely relatives of doctors who work too hard and too late, much of this volume is about dreams: ``Sleepless, I dream of days when I had a future''; `` `I had a dream just now . . . and you were in it . . . I was dying . . . and you saved me.' '' You don't have to be an M.D. to identify with those emotions. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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Paperback - 325 pages - 978-0-595-16066-2
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