The Book of the Week is “Time On Fire” by Evan Handler, published in 1997. The author, a Broadway actor, tells his readers how he survived a five-year bout with myelogenous leukemia in the early 1990’s. His condition necessitated various extreme treatments from which, at that time, fewer than half of patients emerged alive. He details them, good and bad, he received from various medical facilities, whose names he mentions. One action he took, among others, was to get a private hospital room so as to minimize his stress level. One should spare no expense when one is fighting for one’s life. This intense survival story was inspiring, rather than depressing.
The Book of the Week is “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison, published in 1995. This autobiography tells the story of someone with bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness) who had gone undiagnosed until, ironically, she started working on her PhD in psychology.
Jamison was showing symptoms in high school– hearing music in her head, clear as a bell, and staying up all night, sometimes more than one night, energetically completing schoolwork. Sometimes she spoke too fast for people to understand her. A little later, she went on credit-card spending sprees and could not remember them afterwards. She also fell into periods of extreme depression. Each continual up-and-down cycle lasted about three days. She theorized that she had inherited the disorder from her father.
When Jamison got to graduate school, she was given a questionnaire on symptoms of her condition. That was the first time she got an inkling that she was mentally unbalanced. Read the book to learn how she dealt with this revelation.
The Book of the Week is “Over My Head” by Claudia L. Osborn, published in 2000. This depressing memoir describes what happened to the author, a medical doctor, after she sustained a severe head injury. She was, without wearing a helmet, bicycling in the Rocky Mountains with a friend when she was hit by a truck. She did not remember the accident. The damage done to her brain prevented her from resuming her career. Osborn was referred to New York University’s head trauma program to try to recover her ability to live a normal life. The program features group therapy. Read the book to learn the kinds of techniques used to help brain-damaged individuals regain cognitive skills, and how the author fared thereafter.
The Book of the Week is “To Know A Fly” by Vincent G. Dethier, published in 1962. This thin, little paperback book discusses how scientists attempt to understand the behavior of a fly. Those who pull off the legs or wings of flies either come to a bad end or become biologists.
“The [required] college education not infrequently is as useful for acquiring proficiency in the game of Grantsmanship as it is for understanding biology. No self-respecting modern biologist can go to work without money for a secretary, a research associate, two laboratory assistants, permanent equipment…” a car, books, animals and their accompanying accessories, etc., and a vast quantity of money (called overhead) “to the university to pay for all the transcribers hired to handle all the papers and money transactions that so big a grant requires.”
There is much to be said for the fly as an experimental animal. The author describes in detail some clever experiments involving the fly’s eating habits and capacity to learn. “To know the fly is to share a bit in the sublimity of Knowledge.”