blaise's book feast

Un amuse bouche de la litterature

Month: November, 2012

Island Practice

The island of Nantucket’s only general surgeon, Tom Lepore, is a man of many hats. Sometime trauma surgeon, sometime psychiatrist, sometime foster parent for the island’s strays, Dr. Lepore is a polarizing character who does it all. This autobiography/expose of Nantucket’s larger-than-life doctor shows off his wackniess, his antithetical political beliefs, his surgical skill and ultimately his compassion for all of his eccentric patients. For example, patient Underground Tom, a rogue and renegade who builds elaborate underground houses on Nantucket’s private lands, so secreted away that he remains undiscovered by the authorities. Dr. Lepore, of course, makes “house calls” to the underground fortresses that Underground Tom builds, to treat all sorts of every day ailments. There are also the wayward teenagers who thrive in the Lepore house, under the manic discipline of Dr. Lepore and the quiet compassion of his wife Cathy, who appears to put up with a lot. Like Dr. Tom’s extensive gun collection. And his habit of getting lost while hunting, requiring cell-phone triangulation and rescue by his ever-patient wife. And then there is her composure with his occasional marathon habit which requires focal knee injections and generalized compunction to get through the races. Most importantly, Cathy provides a grounding counterpoint to Dr. Lepore’s erstwhile whims and provides quiet guidance to their children, who include a doctor and a nurse, as well as several stray kids who have thrived under the family’s unusual breed of success. Island Practice is a great book that illustrates that the brand of medicine thought lost into the rosy past, the dedicated doc who does it all, is still alive and well off-the-beaten-track in America.

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A Long Voyage in a Small Boat

 Three Years in a 12-Foot Boat by Stephen G. Ladd

SGL_BookCoverBigThis is the true tale of Stephen Ladd’s quest to build a small sailing craft with which he could explore the rivers and waterways of North and South America.  Ladd hales from the Seattle area and begins his journey in the West, on the Milk River in Montana.  From there he proceeds down larger and larger rivers to the Mississippi and enters the Gulf of Mexico by way of New Orleans.  His lonely voyage is punctuated by bright characters, most of whom can’t understand why Ladd would travel all alone in his tiny boat, but are happy to enliven his voyage for a time.

Ladd crosses the Gulf with his craft safely aboard a cargo ship, and spends the next two years on the rivers of Central and South America, and braving the Pacific Ocean off the pirate infested coast of Columbia.  Throughout his peregrinations in South America, Ladd get robbed, spends a brief time in jail, makes some unlikely friends of all social strata, and falls in love.  Despite his Harvard education, Ladd’s heart is firmly attached to his sleeve and he falls victim to a few opportunistic ladies.

Although he is not a writer by trade, Ladd makes an earnest and profound effort in his book, which is well worth reading.  Also notable are the many free-verse interludes sprinkled throughout his journey, which aptly capture the at-turns austere, solitary, and rich environments through which he slowly sails.