Literary Essays – Hektoen International

Sir Roderick Glossop: Wodehouse’s “eminent loony doctor”

Paul Dakin North London, UK   Sir Roderick Glossop (right) and J Washburn Stoker appear in court following Jeeves’ intervention P.G. Wodehouse is one of the greatest comic authors of the twentieth century. He wrote nearly a hundred books containing a fascinating array of characters. Many inhabited the confined geography of 1920’s London and country […]

The morbid poet: Gottfried Benn, the morgue and the mysterious postcard

Annette Tuffs Heidelberg, Germany   “Worst of all: not to die in summer, when everything is bright and the earth is easy on the spade”. So wrote the German poet Gottfried Benn (1886 -1956), three years before his death, in the poem “What’s bad”1. But if the wrong timing of one’s death is the very […]

About face: from revulsion to compassion

Sylvia R. Karasu New York City, NY L’antigrazioso, (“Anti-graceful”) by Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), demonstrating an artist’s abstract rendition of asymmetrical, deformed features.4 Skin Graft (Transplantation) (1924) by Otto Dix1 Winter, 1563 by Giuseppe Arcimboldo(1527-1593) demonstrating an artist’s rendition of grossly deformed features5   “I was too ugly to go to school,” writes Lucy Grealy in her […]

Fish story

Tim Chapman City Colleges of Chicago, Illinois, United States You can get to know a person pretty well when you’re helping them wipe their ass. My name is Ernie Fischetti. I was named after “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks. I used to hate Charlie’s best friend was a guy they called “Mookie.” He always brought in […]

Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark:’ a failure to find a perfect future in an imperfect present

Sylvia R. Karasu New York City, NY   In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark, 1 Aylmer, “a man of science” leaves the somber, factory-like atmosphere of his laboratory to marry the beautiful Georgiana.  Aylmer “had devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any secondary passion,” and seems to […]

When children die

Susan Woldenberg Butler Canberra, Australia Publication Acknowledgement: This fictional short story was published in Secrets from the Black Bag (Royal College of General Practitioners Publications; London, December, 2005).  Angus Easton died surrounded by loved ones who had done everything possible to ease his suffering. Angus was obviously the apple of his family’s eye, and no […]

Those eyes

Susan Woldenberg Butler Canberra, Australia Publication Acknowledgement: This fictional short story was published in Secrets from the Black Bag (Royal College of General Practitioners Publications; London, December, 2005). I’ve always involved myself in the lives of my patients and their families. Familiarity with context helps me to provide better treatment and nourishes such mental processes […]

Blind faith

Susan Woldenberg Butler Canberra, Australia This fictional short story was published in Secrets from the Black Bag (Royal College of General Practitioners Publications; London, December, 2005). Some patients will do anything we tell them. Others obey their spouses blindly. Ambrose O’Sullivan did as his wife directed. It killed her. “Divina won’t be needing that toe […]

Medical murder

Susan Jacob University of Newcastle, Australia   Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory, 17th century, Jacopo Vignali Medical murder or clinicide is defined by the psychiatrist Robert Kaplan as the “unnatural death of multiple patients in the course of treatment by a doctor.”1 Medical murder must be distinguished from euthanasia in that patients do not […]

A song for me

Steve Sobel, MD Northwestern Counseling and Support Services, St. Albans, Vermont, United States   Taylor Swift by WEZL Sometimes the obvious is revealed to us as a life-altering revelation that shifts the tectonic plates of our world. Such was the case when I sat in a stuffy, cramped bedroom listening to Taylor Swift singing “Love […]