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Mark Twain and Medicine: Any Mummery Will Cure

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Columbia, MO, U.S.A. 2003 Hardcover New 0826215025. 362 pp--FLAWLESS COPY, BRAND NEW, PRISTINE, NEVER OPENED--IMPORTANT: Interior text is clean, tight, and unmarked. Pages are ... intact and tight to the spine. --"Mark Twain has always been America's spokesman, and his comments on a wide range of topics continue to be accurate, valid, and frequently amusing. His opinions on the medical field are no exception. While Twain's works, including his popular novels about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, are rich in medical imagery and medical themes derived from his personal experiences, his interactions with the medical profession and his comments about health, illness, and physicians have largely been overlooked. In Mark Twain and Medicine, K. Patrick Ober remedies this omission. The nineteenth century was a critical time in the development of American medicine, with much competition among the different systems of health care, both traditional and alternative. Not surprisingly, Mark Twain was right in the middle of Read more Show Less

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Overview

Mark Twain has always been America’s spokesman, and his comments on a wide range of topics continue to be accurate, valid, and frequently amusing. His opinions on the medical field are no exception. While Twain’s works, including his popular novels about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, are rich in medical imagery and medical themes derived from his personal experiences, his interactions with the medical profession and his comments about health, illness, and physicians have largely been overlooked.
In Mark Twain and Medicine, K. Patrick Ober remedies this omission. The nineteenth century was a critical time in the development of American medicine, with much competition among the different systems of health care, both traditional and alternative. Not surprisingly, Mark Twain was right in the middle of it all. He experimented with many of the alternative care systems that were available in his day—in part because of his frustration with traditional medicine and in part because he hoped to find the “perfect” system that would bring health to his family.
Twain’s commentary provides a unique perspective on American medicine and the revolution in medical systems that he experienced firsthand. Ober explores Twain’s personal perspective in this area, as he expressed it in fiction, speeches, and letters. As a medical educator, Ober explains in sufficient detail and with clarity all medical and scientific terms, making this volume accessible to the general reader.
Ober demonstrates that many of Twain’s observations are still relevant to today’s health care issues, including the use of alternative or complementary medicine in dealing with illness, the utility of placebo therapies, and the role of hope in the healing process.
Twain’s evaluation of the medical practices of his era provides a fresh, humanistic, and personalized view of the dramatic changes that occurred in medicine through the nineteenth century and into the first decade of the twentieth. Twain scholars, general readers, and medical professionals will all find this unique look at his work appealing.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ober (internal medicine, Wake Forest Univ. Sch. of Medicine) has written an extensive account of an unexpected but fascinating subject. Twain's writing is rich in medical references and metaphors; diseases and attempted cures were a major element in the lives of Samuel Clemens and his family. Chapters cover such topics as scarlet fever, cholera, patent medicines, electrotherapy, homeopathy or osteopathy, and hydropathy or water cure, one of Clemens's favorite therapies. In fact, Clemens was attracted to all sorts of alternative medical sects, a reflection of how ineffective the "allopathic" medicine of his day could be. Ober examines these issues and Twain's insights into the desperation of suffering people, the placebo effect, and the positive power of laughter. Not long before his death, Twain was given an honorary medical degree, a fitting tribute to the man and the writer whose observations about medicine still speak to us over 100 years later. Though academic, this well-written book is recommended for university and large public libraries.-A.J. Wright, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Birmingham Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826215024
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2003
  • Series: Mark Twain and His Circle Series
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

K. Patrick Ober is Professor of Internal Medicine and Associate Dean for Education at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviated Titles for Frequently Cited Works
Introduction 1
Sect. I Life Is Short ...
1 A Sickly, Precarious, Tiresome, and Uncertain Child 23
2 Allopathic Medicine: Taking Heroic Measures 30
3 Scarlet Fever Will Be True to You 35
4 The Cholera Days of '49 45
5 Fire in a Liquid Form 55
6 Patent Medicine: The Great American Fraud 61
7 The Autopsy: "Dissection by the Doctors!" 74
8 The Great Dr. Joseph McDowell 81
Sect. II I Don't Like Medicines
9 Hydropathic Medicine: The Flush Times 97
10 Neurasthenia: The American Disease 119
11 Dr. Newton, the Quack 129
12 Electrotherapy: Taking Charge with the Current Fad 135
13 The Rest Cure 147
14 Osteopathy: The Medicine of Manipulation 153
Sect. III Any Mummery Will Cure
15 The Plasmon Cure 169
16 Lies That Help and Lies That Hurt 173
17 Homeopathic Medicine: Dilutions of Grandeur 183
18 Placebo Effect: Curing Warts with Spunk-Water 196
19 Anything ... Except Christian Science 207
20 Faith: Believing What You Know Ain't So 223
21 Any Mummery Will Cure, if the Patient's Faith Is Strong in It 231
22 Old Age and Broken Health 244
Afterword: Hell Is of No Consequence to a Person Who Doesn't Live There 255
App. 1 A Brief Family Medical History 279
App. 2 The Legacy of Neurasthenia 283
App. 3 One of the Choicest Human Beings in the World 295
Notes 299
References 331
Index 353
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2004

    An Intelligent and Compassionate Look at Medicine

    With a hearty appreciation for his subject's acidic wit, Patrick Ober details Twain's bold and unceasing attempts to treat himself with various substances of the day--including kerosene. It was a time when patent medicines were homemade and justifiably worrisome and experimental treatments ranged from blood-letting and inducing vomiting with poisonous substances to 'the water cure,' the 'plasmon cure,' electroshock and placebos. Ober's curiosity about his subject--the progression of medicine through Twain's efforts during his era--is delightful. His attention to accuracy and substance in covering the topic is reassuring. It is a book filled with medical history, written in a clear voice that invites the reader's attention and appreciation.

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