A Doctor's Dictionary: Writings on Culture & Medicine by Iain Bamforth

By Iain Bamforth

During this wide-reaching abecedarium, health professional and poet Iain Bamforth dissects the clash of values embodied in what we name medicine—never totally a technological know-how and now not relatively the paintings it was once. Bamforth brings to endure his adventure of drugs from around the globe, from the hightech American health center of Paris to group wellbeing and fitness centres of Papua, together with his enticing curiosity within the stranger manifestations of clinical issues relating to artwork, literature and tradition. Drawing at the lives and ideas of a few of Europe’s most
celebrated writers, from Auden to Zola with stop-offs on the likes of Darwin, Kafka, Orwell, Proustand Weil alongside the best way, Bamforth bargains insightful and witty diagnoses of the tradition of medication within the sleek age.

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The bottom line would seem to be: if you want to sell drugs, sell the disorder first. Prozac as a Way of Life, eleven essays by different hands, is an unusually literate attempt to take the measure of the world that made Prozac and its corollary: the world that Prozac is making. Prozac has been with us long enough now for it to have gone the way of all drugs: first its acclamation as the universal panacea, then media boosting, followed by the slow emergence of doubt, media quickening of doubt, and finally the backlash (we are currently between stages four and five).

Hagens’ exhibition might just conceivably be a hunt for a tertium quid. It seems to be searching for it in the same places as the contemporary Brit Pack artists, who could well be defined as school-of-life rather than art school. It is, let it be said, a diminished life in which to go to school: reality alone counts, and reality knows nothing of representation—as if human history were an animal history. Besides, if the body is always a symbol of society, as the anthropologist Mary Douglas insists, then society itself must be exploding at the seams.

In the very act of deception with all its preparations, the dreadful voice and expression and gestures, amid the whole effective scenario, the belief in themselves overcomes them; and it is this belief which then speaks so miraculously, so persuasively, to their audience. ) In 1923, Knock’s claims to effectiveness were mostly laughable. The farce was still a game. Medicine lacked sufficient prestige for its authority to be recognised as anything like a law of nature, as Simone Weil pointed out in her essay The Power of Words.

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