The Orange Wire Problem and Other Tales from the Doctor’s Office

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University of Iowa Press, Apr 1, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 206 pages
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Western literature has had a long tradition of physician-writers. From Mikhail Bulgakov to William Carlos Williams to Richard Selzer to Ethan Canin, exposure to human beings at their most vulnerable has inspired fine writing. In his own inimitable and unpretentious style, David Watts is also a master storyteller. Whether recounting the decline and death of a dear friend or poking holes in the faulty logic of an insurance company underling, The Orange Wire Problem lays bare the nobility and weakness, generosity and churlishness of human nature.

With disarming candor and the audacity to admit that practicing medicine can be a crazy thing, Watts fills each page with riveting details, moving accounts, or belly-laughs.  As the stories in this work unfold, we are witness to the moral dilemmas and personal rewards of ministering to the sick. Whether the subject is the potential benefits of therapeutic deception or telling a child about death, Watts’s ear for the right word, the right tone, and the right detail never fails him.

From The Orange Wire Problem and Other Tales from the Doctor’s Office:

We were lingering in the outer office. He mentioned again, no biopsy. I knew that. And I knew there would be no chemotherapy.
    Maybe it's like that Orange Wire Problem, I said.
    Yes exactly, he said, and four years from now when we're all sitting around the campfire we'll remember the Orange Wire Problem. . .
    And I thought to myself, my brother did that. Spoke of the time ahead as he was dying of lung cancer. Six months from now he had said, we'll be glad we did all those drug therapies—as if to speak of the future laid claim to the future.
 

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Contents

Facts and Lies
1
The Orange Wire Problem
3
The Chart in the Window
40
Thank You Mr Nicholson
45
Talking about Christmas
48
Silence Knows the Right Questions
53
One Cancer Cell
57
Anathema
61
Aspirin and Beauty
100
Notes from the Center of a Perpetual Breakdown
108
Ready for Anything
123
A Critical Distance
130
The Way We Know What We Know
143
Third Opinion
149
Hannas Volvulus
155
The Case of the Missing Molecule
159

Telling the Truth in the Realm of Truth
67
Ghosts in the Machine
76
Blood Butterfly
81
Is Something Wrong with Your Prostate?
86
The Soft Animal of the Body
94
The Pill on the Shelf
166
Mother Teresa and the Problem of Care
168
The Doctors Pill
174
Brilliance
184
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

David Watts practices medicine in San Francisco. A poet, musician, television host, and teacher, he is the author of Bedside Manners: One Doctor’s Reflections on the Oddly Intimate Encounters between Patient and Healer, Blessing, Making, Taking the History, and Slow Walking at Jenner-by-the-Sea. He produced Healing Words: Poetry and the Art of Medicine, which was broadcast nationally on PBS in the summer of 2008.

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