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August 14, 1991

Vital Lines: Contemporary Fiction About Medicine

Author Affiliations

Chicago, Ill

Chicago, Ill


edited by Jon Mukand, 436 pp, $22.95, ISBN 0-312-05176-X, New York, NY, St Martin's Press, 1990.

JAMA. 1991;266(6):851-852. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470060113042

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Probably the first and most frequently read part of JAMA is the section "A Piece of My Mind." These dramatic tales "from the front line" demonstrate medicine's natural narrative material. Anyone who has performed a history and physical exam knows that each symptom and scar has its own unique storyline, intertwined with a thousand ribbons of existence and memory.

While these digressions may slow an efficient patient encounter, they make for interesting reading entertainment. The conflicts—between health and disease, patients and their families and doctors—force confrontations with basic attitudes and values. The physician's entrance into the tale is often decisive and dramatic, though not always in the manner he or she intended.

The majority of the 56 short stories in this collection were originally published during the past decade, making this a highly contemporary literary overview of medicine, primarily American, by renowned (Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates) and lesser-known authors.