Monday, September 29, 2008

Olaf reviewed in SEED

The current issue of SEED magazine has a brief review of Olaf! Here's a nice bit from the review:

Menger-Anderson’s fictional take on the harsh realities of old-world medical science s at once grotesque and utterly compelling, as are her madcap characters, who desire so earnestly to find a cure—whatever the cost.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hypnotism's Sinister Work

In 1850, The Fool, whose story is told in "The Baquet," uses mesmerism (a precurser to hypnotism involving a magnetic fluid or ethereal medium residing in the bodies of animate beings) to help cure patients. Today, the applications of this wonderous technology have been broadened to include 'remote mental telepathy to combat terrorism'--at least according to Kazuki Hirano, who was recently arrested for stabbing a British biologist in the leg. Tom Sharpe reports further in The New Mexican:

Hirano said he became convinced his thoughts were being controlled four or five years ago when he began to feel hypnotized while he was homeless in the Camden Town district of London. He said a man named "Doctor Tony" in London's Stockwell district told him Sheldrake [the biologist Hirano ultimately stabbed in the leg] was conducting experiments in mind control on the homeless. Hirano said he didn't believe this at first but came to accept it after reading about Sheldrake on the Internet. He said he now believes the American military is developing remote mental telepathy to combat terrorism.

After discovering that he was being remotely controlled, Hirano began the search for techniques to block the unwanted forces imposed upon him. Dismissing Tai Chi and other Chinese practices as unscientific, and suffering the disdain of Dr. Sheldrake himself who, among other things "looks at me stupid and then walks away", Hirano concluded that people were making money from the experiments and therefore would not tell him how to cure himself. If he finds any answers, he promises to post them on the internet.

Thanks to the Fortean Times for bringing this story to my attention.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Living or the Dead?

Science News reports on an experimental heart transplant procedure that involves removing the heart from a "dead" infant and placing it into a "live" one. Researchers performed three such transplants, and all three recipient children continued to live when they otherwise would not have.

The problem? Well, much like the doctor in "Happy Effects"--Dr. Jan Steenwycks, who tries to determine whether or not his patient is expired using techniques of the early 18th century (garlic, mirrors, needles and pins), the doctors of today are not convinced that the dead babies are no longer among the living.

As reported in Science News:

The dilemma focuses on the dead donor rule, an ethical guideline stating that a donor must be dead before vital organs are prepared for transplantation. When the heart has stopped irreversibly, it is called cardiac death. Dead donor rule protocol, based on a 2005 consensus in the medical community, suggests waiting between two and five minutes after the pulse stops to declare death.

However, to prevent damage to the donor organs, the hearts in the study were removed from the donors only "one minute and fifteen seconds after the donor’s pulse ceased."

Should doctors modify the dead donor rule in order to increase the chances of successful transplants? Ethical debates continue. An interesting clip of the debate can also be found on the Science News site.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Olaf reviewed in Booklist

My editor sent me this nice review of Dr. Olaf from Booklist:

Doctor Olaf Van Schuler’s Brain
By Kirsten Menger-Anderson
Oct. 2008. 304p. Algonquin, $22.95 (9781565125612) Historical Fiction.

The history of medicine and medical quackery, and one’s family personal history within that context, conjoin in this startlingly effective, even educational, novel. The Steenwyck family represents a long processions of brilliant doctors, going all the way back to colonial New York; but if brilliant, they also have quirky, even strange personalities. In a sequence of relatively short chapters, the author, eschewing a long, continuous narrative, preferring, in fact, an album of picture portraits, takes what amounts to snapshots of each Steenwyck doctor as the generations succeed one another, with each doctor’s “professional” activities speaking to the medical issue—or fad—of the day, from learning the mechanics of the brain to raising the dead to practicing phrenology to the Salk vaccine to the current popularity of breast implants. These individuals conduct their research and practices with typical Steenwyck passion, even in the face of skepticism, adversity, and disastrous results. For the most part, medical history cannot help but be interesting, and this author brings the subject to a fascinating glow; by extension, the story of the Steenwyck family becomes one thread of American cultural history.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Doctor Olaf arrived in the mail today

This morning, on my way out the door, I ran into Jose, our UPS guy, who had a copy of Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain in his truck. I opened it right there on the sidewalk. The book looks beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. I can't believe that it's sitting next to me now. Wooo!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Doctor Olaf mentioned in the SF Chronicle

Doctor Olaf was listed in the SF Chronicle (along with titles by John Updike, Diane Johnson, Walter Mosley and Alan Cheuse) as one of the "more compelling titles coming out in the fall." Woo!