Atul Gawande & Elizabeth Gilbert
Two of our author events last week - with Atul Gawande (The Checklist Manifesto) and Elizabeth Gilbert (Committed) - attracted such large crowds that this may have prevented some of you from attending the events. We are very proud of our author events and encourage you to stay informed about the events and make plans early to attend.
Through Eat, Pray, Love, Liz Gilbert’s readers grew to appreciate her honesty in her life’s struggles, as she reflected thoughtfully about life and shared her self-discovery, her persistent inquiring style, her self-deprecating and witty turns of phrase, illuminated by lively characters such as Richard from Texas, and Wayan and Kekut from Bali, as well as of course, Filipe who was to become her partner and eventually her husband. Such characters are matched in Committed by people such as her niece Mimi (who insists that there has to be “the person” (and a flower girl) to make a wedding official), the officiant at the wedding Mayor Harry Furstenburger of Frenchtown, Sir William Robert Ferdinand Mount (3rd baronet and conservative columnist for the London Sunday Times), and, of course, Officer Tom of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Ms. Gilbert has a warm and engaging presence. Her remarks were thoughtful, incisive, and personable, as she addressed such questions as the future of gay marriage in the United States and compared France, where even straight couples are beginning to prefer civil unions, and America where civil unions will always be perceived, in her opinion, as second-class to marriage; offered her perspective on unions being citizens of different countries (she recommends it); and the experience of opening private aspects of her life to her readers. Her new book, Committed, shares all of the humor and wisdom of Eat, Pray, Love this time focusing on her efforts to mentally prepare herself for institutionalization through marriage, an undertaking that she had sworn that she would never again pursue, before the United States Department of Homeland Security got involved.
Atul Gawande has also generated a large following through his previous books (Better and Complications) about his experiences and perspectives as a surgeon. His new book, The Checklist Manifesto, is less personal in the story, but just as personal in the urgency as he details the necessity of a complete checklist to assure a safe outcome to many high-risk procedures. What he is advocating – checklists for surgeons but also for any person in a position of critical responsibility- is very important and long-past due. The book arises from the fact that 20% of all surgeons feel that they are so competent that they don’t need a checklist, even though research shows how effective checklists can be in reducing unnecessary injury and death. For any career field that deals with life-and-death situations and which requires quick responses, Dr. Gawande shows how invaluable the development of checklists is for ensuring that when an does emergency happen, there is a decreased potential of unintentional errors.
- Our guest letterwriter this week is bookseller Andrew Getman.
Jack the Ripper was—if you’ll excuse me—a distant second to William Burke and William Hare of 19th century Edinburgh. Lisa Rosner, a professor of history, has brought them and their world to life in THE ANATOMY MURDERS. (University of Pennsylvania Press, $29.95) It was a widespread practice of the time to dig up corpses in order to sell them to medical men for dissection. Burke and Hare, with coldblooded ingenuity, realized they could simply skip the grave-digging, and in an atrocious spree murdered 16 people and delivered them to the anatomists—all in one year. Another crime novel? Not at all. This is a remarkably researched and riveting story of the Irish migration to Scotland, of the lives of Edinburgh’s ‘dangerous classes,’ of the medical practices of the day, of the legal system and of Burke and Hare and their very real victims. I am full of admiration for Professor Rosner. This is a perfect book for a history buff with a slightly murderous heart.- Jeanie Teare