John J. Ross, another physician who writes well (remember Anton Checkhov?) has written an entertaining and informative book about the medical ailments of authors through the ages. Ross, who practices at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, will read from his Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough on Tuesday, June 9, at 6:30 PM at the South End branch. Ross explores the likely maladies of twelve literary stars, ranging from Shakespeare (syphilis) to Milton (blindness), and on from there to Swift (vertigo), the Bronte sisters (tuberculosis), Hawthorne (anxiety disorder), Melville (probably bi-polar disorder), Yeats (Aspergers), Joyce (gonorrhea) and, finally, Orwell (damaged bronchial tubes). That all these ailing people were high achievers does not surprise Ross: He believes that "literary genius is more likely to arise from disappointment and chagrin than comfort and complacency.” A Wall Street Journal reviewer called Ross “a penetrating literary critic and a perceptive and humane observer of the lives of writers and of those in their orbit.” The Washington Post‘s critic described the book as “a delicious gumbo of odd personalities, colorful literary history, and enlightened deduction.” The New York Times said the tales of the ‘wounded storytellers’ “unfold smoothly on the page, as mesmerizing as any they themselves might have told, those squinting, wheezing, arthritic, infected, demented, defective yet superlative examples of the human condition.”
The event is free. Seating is limited. Refreshments will be served. Books will be available for sale, signing by the author and borrowing from the library. The South End branch is fully handicapped accessible.
The final author reading of the season will be on Tuesday, June 23rd, when Adam Rothman, who grew up on West Brookline Street but is currently an associate professor of history at Georgetown University, will read from his compelling Beyond Freedom's Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery.