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Abraham VergheseDescribe your latest project.
I think of Cutting for Stone as an epic, family saga, and a medical saga. I also think of it as an extended love story: both about the crazy obsessive love one can have with medicine, as well as secular love the two forms of love are almost inseparable in the story. The main narrator, Marion, saves himself, or tries to (as many of us do), by discovering a life in medicine. But then, like his father, he is also in danger of losing himself because of medicine. The story is also about Marion's love for his family and for a woman; it is about a quest to unlock the mystery of his abandonment.
My view of love is generous, I suppose: I see it as a trip wire hence we "fall" in love instead of simply "arriving" to love. As a result, love can become a set of wills trying to match, but instead misfiring and mismatching in spectacular fashion. In the early AIDS era in particular, as a physician I got to see the existence of love, the meaning of love and especially the discovery that the meaning of life turns out to be all about love as something people realized too late. Only when they were at death's door did the redemptive property of love become apparent.
I would say it was being an orderly when my medical school education was interrupted. In the process of bathing patients, helping them get dressed, dealing with bedpans and all that, I began to see what it was the patient really went through in the 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day when the doctors were not around. I look back on that period as terribly important in teaching me humility about the doctor's role and the importance of the role of the nurses and nursing assistants.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
How do you relax?
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
What is your astrological sign? If you don't like what you were born with, to what sign would you change and why?
Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?
On a clear and cold day, do you typically get outside into the sunshine or stay inside where it's warm?
Who are your favorite characters in history? Have any of them influenced your writing?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Great Books That Might Inspire Readers to Find Their Calling in Medicine:
The Citadel by A. J. Cronin
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin
The Puzzle People: Memoirs of a Transplant Surgeon by Thomas Starzl
Not as a Stranger by Morton Thompson
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Abraham Verghese is Professor and Senior Associate Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He was the founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, where he is now an adjunct professor. He is the author of My Own Country, a 1994 NBCC Finalist and a Time Best Book of the Year, and The Tennis Partner, a New York Times Notable Book. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he has published essays and short stories that have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Granta, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in Palo Alto, California.