Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them

Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them

4.7 3
by Mary Cappello
     
 

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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 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

Overview

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 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 had 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 Cappello's moving investigative portrait of Dr. Chevalier Jackson (1835—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."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A warm and thoroughly researched portrait.”
The Washington Post

“Cappello … brings a psychoanalytic richness to her understanding of ingestion and dentition.”
The Guardian

“[Cappello] packs her story with surprising imagery and extravagant lyricism, taking a highly literary approach on the subject.”
Salon

“One odd, and oddly haunting, book.”
Macleans

"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."
—Ricky Jay

"[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 Ripley’s 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 & Noble Review

Publishers Weekly
They are fodder for the giggles--and groans--in every ER: the alarming X-rays of coins, toys, buttons, safety pins, needles, and other nonedibles of both the benign and potentially fatal variety. Award-winning author Cappello (Called Back) brings a poet's sensibility and a journalist's fascination to the modern history of foreign body ingestion through the story of early–20th-century endoscopy pioneer Chevalier Jackson, who meticulously documented his extractions, which along with his tools are on display at Philadelphia's medical Mutter Museum. "We have entered... a form of literature and not of science, a philosophical treatise... for a theater of the absurd," marvels Cappello of the detritus Jackson retrieved from throats and stomachs. Hewing closely to Jackson, Cappello chronicles the odd cases and people--and in one case, an entire family--who built his practice and reputation. Their improbable accidents elicit gasps of astonishment; how did a baby swallow more than two dozen pins, needles, and cigarette butts? Cappello smartly focuses on Jackson's peculiar life, wondrous fine art, and diligent science, transforming an intriguing medical history into a lyrical biography. Medical practitioners and nonprofessionals will be equally fascinated. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Coins, pins, jewelry, seeds, bones, buttons, toys, and utensils are just some of the many items found in the Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia's Mutter Museum. Cappello (English, Univ. of Rhode Island; Called Back) seeks to explore and understand how and why these objects and many others were swallowed or inhaled by people. The author examines the lives of the patients and the laryngologists who extracted the foreign bodies from them. Cappello details how someone may end up swallowing or inhaling a foreign object and considers the objects themselves and the journey they take into the human body. VERDICT The writing style may make this work difficult for some readers to get through. The subject matter might appeal only to a small audience so most libraries should purchase where there is demand by readers delighted by the unusual.—Dana Ladd, Community Health Education Ctr., Tompkins-McCaw Lib. for the Health Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth Univ., Richmond
Kirkus Reviews

Cappello (English and Creative Writing/Univ. of Rhode Island;Called Back: My Reply to Cancer, My Return to Life, 2009, etc.) meditates on swallowing and an important American doctor.

In the early 20th century, Dr. Chevalier Jackson pioneered a life-saving method of removing foreign bodies—safety pins, buttons, toy opera glasses, etc.—from the respiratory or upper gastrointestinal tracts. His collection of rescued foreign bodies inspired the author to write this book, in part a biography about him, his patients and the special aura imbued in an object that's been lodged inside of a person. She writes in literary, often beautiful prose and organizes the narrative around episodes from Jackson's life and notable patient cases represented by specific foreign bodies. These provide jumping-off points for musings on race, class, sword swallowing and many other topics. These digressions are often only tenuously relevant and give rise to numerous seemingly profound statements that ultimately lack meaning—e.g., "To swallow hardware is to swallow the entrails of machinery." Even when pertinent, Cappello's asides are less interesting than Jackson, his patients and the foreign bodies. Frequent recourse to psychoanalytic and Freudian interpretation—for instance, calling the larynxes that Jackson painted "vaginas"—fails to illuminate and in fact distracts from the main narrative. These faults obscure the interesting story that lies tantalizingly behind them, which is a shame, since Jackson is a significant figure in the history of medicine and deserves to be better known.

An interesting, important subject drowned by digression and unconvincing interpretation.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595587770
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
05/01/2012
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.73(d)

Meet 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.

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Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok, night.
Dr_Manlowe More than 1 year ago
'Whether avant-garde poetry, memoir, creative non-fiction or wildly-courageous fiction, every work of Mary Cappello's breaks open my heart wider and wider. The precision and sheer beauty of her writing-this time about a mesmerizing doctor/collector/genius from Philadelphia (which I believe is her home town)-remains astounding."