Synopses & Reviews
In this fascinating and lyrical book, the seemingly disparate but equally marvelous worlds of the circus and the medical amphitheater meet in characters ranging from the sword swallowers and women who lunched on hardware to the sensitive, bullied boy who grew up to be the father of endoscopy. The Mütter Museums Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection, a cabinet filled with thousands of items that have been swallowed or inhaled, then extracted nonsurgically by a pioneering laryngologist using rigid instruments of his own design, sets the stage for award-winning author Mary Cappellos moving investigative portrait of Dr. Chevalier Jackson (1865-1958), his cosmology of objects, and the lives he saved. Its own uncanny, deeply rewarding assemblage, Swallow brings together the complex physiology of the human swallow and the menace of a button box; a willed ingestion of non-nutritive things that is little understood and a social history of hunger; the humanitarian mission that bred the Federal Caustic Poison Act of 1927 and a crusade to make the world foreign body conscious.”
A warm and thoroughly researched portrait.”
The Washington Post
brings a psychoanalytic richness to her understanding of ingestion and dentition.”
[Cappello] packs her story with surprising imagery and extravagant lyricism, taking a highly literary approach on the subject.”
One odd, and oddly haunting, book.”
"Swallow is a surprising and original work. It is biography on the slant, a meditation that transcends boundaries and genres, written with scholarship, humor, and panache. I urge you to take this journey."
"[Cappello's] writing style is wistful, wacky, and wise. . . . Swallow is a strange and alluring work of musings and medical history. . . . Occupying a curious position between Ripleys Believe It or Not and riveting biography, this book is something special."
Tony Miksanek, MD, JAMA
"A wonderful and bizarre book: gorge yourself on it, and gulp."
Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic
"Cappello's fine writing creates a book that goes down very easy."
Paul Di Filippo, The Barnes and Noble Review
Launched at Philadelphias Mütter Museum to warm reviews and coverage in the New York Times
and the Wall Street Journal
is a beguiling and deeply rewarding exploration of the museums Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection, a set of drawers filled with thousands of items that had been swallowed or inhaled. It is also a quirky portrait of Dr. Chevalier Jackson, the pioneering laryngologist who extracted those items nonsurgically, using rigid instruments of his own design, and of the act of swallowing itself.
Animating the space between interest and terror, curiosity and dread, award winning author Mary Cappello explores what seems beyond understanding: the physiology of the human swallow, and the poignant and baffling psychology that compels people to ingest non-nutritive things. Cappello uncovers a history of racism and violence, of forced ingestion and hysteria,” of class and poverty that left children to bank their familys last quarters in their mouths. Here, the seemingly disparate but equally marvelous worlds of the circus and the medical amphitheater meet in characters ranging from sword swallowers and women who lunched on hardware to the sensitive, bullied boy who grew up to be the father of endoscopy.
About the Author
Mary Cappello is the author of Awkward (a Los Angeles Times bestseller), Called Back, and Night Bloom. A recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the Bechtel Prize for Educating the Imagination, and the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize, she teaches at the University of Rhode Island and lives in Providence.
Table of Contents
I. Who Was That Man?
Alone on Floor with Pile of Buttons”
Remembering Forward: The Idea of a Legacy
Fbdy #C804, Case #3268, X-rays #48451C and 48460C: The Case of Andrew C.
A Peculiar Chap
The Life of Chevalier Jackson”: Early Prototypes of Rescue
II. How Does Someone Swallow That?
Between Carelessness and Desire: Getting Objects Down
Chevalier Jacksons Traumatic Phases”
A Catastrophe of Childhood: Gastric Lavage
Chevalier Jacksons Tears: The Case of the Boy Who Cried
Fbdy (Multiple) #1173: Gavage: The Case of Joseph B.
Fbdy #2440: A Perfect Attendance Pin
Strange Things Were on the Run from Marys Deepest Depths”: Hardware, Swords, Scopes
III. What Are These Things?
Fbdy #565: The Case of Margaret Derryberry: Objects Lost and Found and Lost Again
Instrumentality and Instruments as Things
Modernist Portals and Secular Tabernacles: Chevalier Jackson Meets Joseph Cornell
IV. Mystery Bones and the Unrecovered Boy