“David Watts is a gifted storyteller with a sense of the poetic, macabre, ironic, and surreal. He combines eloquence, erudition, and an ear for the gritty vernacular of the examining room and ER—a thoroughly satisfying read.”—Leonard Shlain, author of The Alphabet Versus the Goddess and Sex, Time and Power
“Watts can compress humor, pathos, and bewitching ambiguity into a few pages. Acting like a doctor, as he counsels himself, carries the risk of arrogance. Being a doctor demands a profound and grateful openness to the unknown.” —Steven Winn, arts and culture critic, San Francisco Chronicle
“These encounters with his patients by a wise, kind doctor are finely wrought in language that is always clear and compassionate. They are a welcome addition to the growing body of literature from the experience of medicine.” —Richard Selzer, surgeon and author of The Whistler’s Room
“Even the most routine checkup will never be quite the same. Watts’s sympathy for both physicians and their patients subtly changes our understanding of what it means to heal and be healed, and to put our trust in the hands of a practitioner who is just as complex, flawed—and human—as we are.” —Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine
“Always sensitive, sometimes hilarious.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Candid, poetic prose . . . You’ll wish your doctor were half as attentive.” —Newsweek
"Sickness brings out the worst in people.... Many of my patients exhibit neurotic behavior.... But generally, their basic attitude is that of prayer-an almost desperate pleading for mercy at the hands of illness." These words by Watts, a poet and commentator on NPR as well as a practicing physician, exemplify his nuanced and thoughtful attitude toward his patients. Both empathetic and practical, Watts relates encounters that have informed his ability to understand, diagnose and treat sickness. In "The Morbius Monster," a youngish man suffering from severe indigestion asks to be heavily sedated during an endoscopy, but even while unconscious resists the procedure. Through intuition and sensitive questioning, Watts elicits an account of early child abuse, and with the patient's cooperation, talks him through a second test with local anesthetic. In another case, Watts describes the day when, beset by the demands of his schedule, he reluctantly went to a convalescent home to visit Codger, an elderly Jewish man who was a garrulous curmudgeon. After listening to Codger's tale of how he came upon the death camps as an American soldier in WWII, Watts concludes that by making the time to see and listen to this patient, he made a human connection. All of the incidents related here, whether sad, frustrating or inconclusive, are unfailingly compelling. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (On sale Feb. 8) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Economical vignettes follow a doctor's interior life as he goes about the business of diagnosing. California-based Watts, a regular NPR commentator, has taken the world of gastroenterology, with its scopes and intestines and tests no one wants to take, and teased out the essential truths at its heart. He may have his medical degree, but he has also long been a poet, and here the doctor presents accounts of his work and his patients that summon up all the awe and wonder that still characterize the field of medicine. Most concerned with the interaction between patient and doctor, Watts considers the things that people say and don't say, what they worry about and what concerns him, as their physician. He recalls the time he calmed a patient by reciting one of his own poems, and helped another simply by listening to her talk about her daughter. He gives a very short, stunningly effective account of a tracheotomy patient who, while fully conscious, is suffocated through a nurse's carelessness. Recounting the first time he sutured a wound, Watts gives equal time to the mechanics of sewing and the fact that the patient won't file charges against his assailant. Equally stirring are the doctor's accounts of dealing with managed care; he distills his interactions with the pencil-pushers to their maddening essence, requiring just a few pages to leave the reader incensed at the pettiness and lunacy of today's health insurance industry. While Watts can occasionally lean too heavily toward the sentimental, the work as a whole is balanced. But a caveat for hypochondriacs: Reading this may produce a whole new set of anxieties. Since life and death are waiting every time a doctor goes into the office,some of Watts's accounts are about people who didn't make it. Undeniably compelling, but chilling for those who even somewhat expect the worst. Agent: Michelle Tessler/Tessler Literary Agency