This blog post is a mess but I’m going to post it anyway
I’m a newer member of my book club, and my first time hosting took place this week. I must admit that I was worrying just a little when I selected my book. Would I be judged by my book? What if my whole book club hated it? Do other people stress about their book choices? What will I make for the main course and does the food need to match the book? And why oh why do I stress about everything? Man, I hate myself. But I digress.
I ended up choosing the book Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, which I had read soon after it won the 2006 Giller Prize. I chose this book for a few reasons, one of which is that I just admire the author so much, but also because I was at the University of Ottawa in the science program at the same time as Vincent (no, not in medical school, I am not a physician, but in the same undergrad program as him). I remember him just a little bit, but unfortunately I really can’t say that I knew him.
The book begins with students writing a molecular biology final exam in the gym at the University of Ottawa. This was based on the author’s own personal experience, and I was probably in that same gym at the same time as him, writing that same exam. That was pretty cool for me because there are not a lot of novels that incorporate science exam writing in the Ottawa area, if you can believe it. Huh.
After the University of Ottawa, Vincent Lam went on to medical school and is now an emergency room physician in Toronto. Oh, and he just happened to write a Giller Prize winning novel on the side. Yes, I am totally and completely jealous.
In preparing for my book club meeting, I went to Vincent Lam’s website at http://www.vincentlam.ca/. And I thought, why not drop Vincent a line and tell him how much I admire him and see if he has anything that our book club could discuss. Vincent kindly wrote back the very next day, and even though I could tell from his message that he didn’t remember me, he was very nice. He sent me this:
Well, I will leave you with a quote from William Osler, a great Canadian physician, which your club can mull over, even debate as yays and nays!
“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.”
Now I really wish I could report back to you some of the great insight that people had on this quote and on the book in general, but I was just so darn busy serving my Faux Pho http://www.recipe.com/vietnamese-style-beef-noodle-broth/ and making sure everyone had wine and a place to sit, that I was having a hard time concentrating on the discussion. The general consensus of the group was that it was a great read and very well written. By easy I don’t mean fluffy or not serious in any way – the writing is thoughtful, clear, and flowing. The stories move along.
The quote that Vincent sent me seemed to reflect some of the different patients in the book and how they are treated by the main character physicians. I won’t say more as this post was not meant to be a book review, and also because I really wouldn’t be able to do justice to the comments that people made. I shall take better notes the next time. Charming book club members, if you are reading, please feel free to help me out.
Now this book is being turned into a new television series on HBO which leads to the only major criticism of the book – the new copies that are in stores have an Oprah-like sticker on them saying “As Seen on HBO” and it looks tacky. Apparently at least one episode of the new show has already aired, but even though we have far too many cable channels, we don’t get that particular one. I’m hoping that I can find it online because I think it will be worth a watch.