Thanks to a regular diet of vitamin FFFF, LITFL managed to fight off a malign malware miasma last week. Unfortunately, with the blog’s immune system occupied, FFFF 051 had to be delayed… But, finally, it’s here!
With two weeks of FFFF withdrawal symptoms kicking in, this week’s FFFF megadose might not be well tolerated by the usual route of administration. Feel free to experiment with other routes and let UCEM’s PR Supervisor know if the bioavailability is improved.
Can you match these opening lines or paragraphs to the appropriate book? Each book is somehow, often only tenuously, related to some aspect of medicine or previous LITFL posts…
Q1. Name the book that opens with:
“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like ‘I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive . . .’ And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming, ‘Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?’”
Q3. Name the book that opens with:
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- What has this got to do with medicine? Well, Douglas Adams was a great guy, who sadly left us way too early, and had something of an interest in toxinology — best evidenced by his hilarious meeting with Australian toxinology guru Struan Sutherland (see When Doug met Struan). Also, what other book tells you unequivocally the answer to the meaning of life and one’s place in the universe?
“Life’s like a penis:
When it’s soft you can’t beat it;
When it’s hard you get screwed”
- The House of God by Samuel Shem
- The most infamous novel ever written about becoming a doctor. The first chapter opens with a quote from the legendary Fat Man, Resident at the The House of God. The first line of the book is actually, “Except for her sunglasses, Berry is naked.”
- Read this excerpt on how NOT to diagnose amyloidosis, which includes the legendary Rules of the House of God.
“It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him”
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
- OK, it’s about war… but it could easily be about (emergency) medicine, and may have inspired The House of God (if only subliminally).
- Also, it’s packed with medical references, such as these:
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.
“The colonel dwelt in a vortex of specialists who were still specializing in trying to determine what was troubling him. They hurled lights in his eyes to see if he could see, rammed needles into nerves to hear if he could feel. There was a urologist for his urine, a lymphologist for his lymph, an endocrinologist for his endocrines, a psychologist for his psyche, a dermatologist for his derma; there was a pathologist for his pathos, and cystologist for his cysts. … The colonel had really been investigated. There was not an organ of his body that had not been drugged and derogated, dusted and dredged, fingered and photographed, removed, plundered, and replaced.”
[On the soldier in white]: “Sewn into the bandages over the insides of both elbows were zippered lips through which he was fed clear fluid from a clear jar. A silent zinc pipe rose from the cement on his groin and was coupled to a slim rubber hose that carried waste from his kidneys and dripped it efficiently into a clear, stoppered jar on the floor. When the jar on the floor was full, the jar feeding his elbow was empty, and the two were simply switched quickly so that stuff could drip back into him.”
Q6. Name the book that opens with:
“Dr. Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.”
Q7. Name the book that opens with:
“In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages.”
- Perfume by Patrick Süskind.
- This is the fascinating tale of a deranged perfume apprentice in 18th century France with an unnaturally heightened sense of smell and no personal body odour. He evolves into a serial killer of virgins as he tries to assemble the ingredients required to create the “perfect scent”.
Q8. Name the book that opens with:
“The beginning is simple to mark.”
- Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
- The main antagonist has erotomania, aka de Clerambault’s syndrome. The opening chapter, involving a runaway hot air balloon, is simply mind-blowing.
- McEwan has an unmistakable predilection for including characters with neurological and psychiatric conditions in his novels (as noted here).
Q9. Name the book that opens by quoting Daniel Defoe:
“It is as reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not.”
- The Plague by Albert Camus.
- Though it may be a metaphor for the Nazi occupation of France during world war two, this tale of the plague affecting the town of Oran, is essential reading for any doctor… Not simply because the main protagonist is also a doctor, but for it’s lucid portrayal of the human condition and because it’s one of the greatest books ever written.
- Of course, the first line of Camus’ The Stranger is one of the most (in)famous in literature:
“Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
Q10. Name the book that opens with:
“They’re out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.”
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
- This book gives the impression that being in a mental institution in the 1950s wasn’t a very pleasant experience… What with Nurse Ratched, electroshock therapy and frontal lobotomies.
- If you haven’t seen it yet, Sherwin Nuland’s TED talk on his own personal (life-saving) adventure through Electroshock therapy and mental illness is a must see.