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October 3, 1980

Medicine and Literature

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1980;244(14):1623. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310140081046

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Like Gaul, this collection of essays is divided into three parts. Gaul comes to mind automatically, because 12 of the book's 24 contributing essayists are professors of French. The flavor, if not exclusively French, is distinctly continental.

Part 1 deals with physician-writers, part 2 with physicians portrayed in literature, and part 3 with disease as an altered state of consciousness. Despite the subdivisions, the book retains a basic thematic unity. Biography, history, philosophy, literary criticism, and clinical medicine blend harmoniously—albeit with varying emphasis—in almost every essay.

The reader may wonder why relatively little space is devoted to American physician-writers. William Carlos Williams receives his due, and Richard Selzer is not neglected, but surely Lewis Thomas deserves more than casual mention and Walker Percy more than no mention at all.

The reader may also wonder why, two psychiatrists excepted, not a single contributing essayist is a physician. A book on medicine