Thoreau’s Microscope

Michael Blumlein. PM, $14 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-62963-516-3
This small, intense collection of “language writer” and physician Blumlein’s short fiction focuses on bodies and people’s relationships with them. The title piece, original to the collection, creates a delightfully strange atmosphere of simultaneous intimacy and intellectual detachment in an autobiographical first-person narrative of how a doctor deals with the “morbid curiosity” of experiencing his own cancer as both patient and professional. Previously published stories are equally successful in their incongruities: the sweet “Paul and Me” combines mythic masculinity and AIDS, the carefully crafted “Know How, Can Do” addresses dilemmas around experimentation by reframing Frankenstein’s monster as a self-aware worm with a human brain, and the quirky and emotional “Fidelity” is as much about infant circumcision as it is about romantic longing. An interview with Blumlein by series editor Terry Bisson feels prefabricated and clunky, checking off discussion of the status of each of Blumlein’s old projects, but Blumlein also gets some space to talk explicitly about the elements of medicine and ethics that feature in his work. Blumlein completists will be glad to have this on their shelves. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
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