October 2017


Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the Nobel in literature, today. This made me happy because the award was for literary merit as opposed to political messaging, and because I liked Remains of the Day. He wrote that book in four weeks, apparently, in a period he called the crash:

“I wrote free-hand, not caring about the style or if something I wrote in the afternoon contradicted something I’d established in the story that morning. The priority was simply to get the ideas surfacing and growing. Awful sentences, hideous dialogue, scenes that went nowhere—I let them remain and ploughed on.”

In an Atlantic article, this trivia is noted:
“…the Crash came at a time when Ishiguro knew what he needed to know to write what he wanted to write. All that was required was to sit down and do the work. (There’s a German word for that, and that word is Sitzfleisch.)”

Sitzfleisch. An ugly word for a transcendent concept.


Today I did the HMS luncheon for urology. There were thirty students in attendance. The classroom used for informational luncheons is now super fancy, with United Nations style desks and microphones and outlets at each desk, and TV screens up top. I miss the old amphitheater-style seating. The lunch was sandwiches, which were all bad, but they had the spicy pickled relish I like, which brought back waves of memories of bad lunches at the Brigham.

I talked with F. for a while -- she has a daughter now, and her son is six. She reminded me of how I visited her when she was in the hospital after delivering him, back in 2011. I was on my first rotation of third-year, on OB-GYN. F. said she brought this up recently when she was delivering her daughter at another hospital because she refused to have students in the room since they all know her, and they said you can’t refuse, this is a teaching hospital. Eventually, they listened to her.

The glass ceiling of the Atrium was leaking, and now it's all boarded up for repairs and they’re “living in an eclipse,” as F. put it. The repairs started a month ago and are supposed to finish in November. Then they’re going to get rid of all the Societies, which in my opinion were one of the best parts of HMS.

Afterward, I walked to Coolidge Corner to pick up the keys from J’s mailbox, because the management company changed the front door key. I went to Peet’s to study, and a weird barista was there, and the sun was so hot and bright that I had to wear sunglasses indoors. Eventually, the left side of my face was unbearably cooked, and I left. On the T, my Charlie Card was expired. The T driver pulled a used card out of his pocket and gave it to me. This was really kind and random. I read part of The Master, which is about Henry James. Reading about his love of solitude and waking up to mornings where he knew he didn’t have to talk to anyone or see anyone for the rest of the day, I wanted to cry, it was so right.

At eight thirty at night, I was still on the phone with a patient with a soft voice who doesn’t want to come to the office for a visit but nevertheless wants to talk and get a little reassurance about his urological health, which he says continues to be fine. “I’m not bothered, I just wanted to talk about it, and it bothered me that we hadn’t talked in a while, that’s all,” he kept saying.


I just read James Wood’s essay “Becoming Them” in The New Yorker from many years ago (January 2013). He perfectly and touchingly describes the dull routine of Sundays at home, his dad listening to classical music. “Boredom, headachey Sunday boredom: I blamed Christianity.” The passages are so evocative, conjuring memories of forgotten aspirations and aches, and reminding me of a time when I read and thought more about the sorts of things he describes.

James Wood taught in the English department at Harvard while I was in college. Maybe he still does. I wonder if it was a mistake not to have taken his classes, when everyone at the time seemed to know it was the thing to do. Sometimes I wonder if I did everything wrong in college.

I have grown so fond of the Roomba when it interrupts me and bumps into my feet under the table as I work, sniffing out dust, and I think this is just further evidence that we need a pet. My Roomba is lazy and stops working whenever it feels like it. There are entire rooms it ignores, intentionally, and ten minutes after roaming around, it will go back to its docking station and take a nap. I’d still like to have a cat named Marge. If I ever get a cat, I’m going to potty train it and walk it around town on a leash. I know that sounds ridiculous, but over the summer, I saw a couple walking a fat white bunny on a leash in Boston Common -- they’d brought it to visit the swans -- so really, there are no rules.

September 2017