Friday, August 28, 2009

Every Patient Tells a Story

Lisa Sanders, MD writes the monthly column Diagnosis for the New York Times Magazine and is a consultant for the television series House, MD. Dr. Sanders was a broadcast journalist specializing in medical stories before deciding to become a doctor as her second career. She now teaches at the Yale School of Medicine as well as being a practicing internist. She collects stories of interesting diagnoses and writes about them in her NYT column and now has a book out, Every Patient Tells a Story, medical mysteries and the art of diagnosis (2009) which recounts not only the stories of patients whose illnesses were hard to diagnose, but also discusses the diagnostic process and the importance of the physical exam, a fast-disappearing art apparently as high-tech tests replace that skill in many cases.

In the introduction, the case of a young woman so jaundiced that she is "highlighter yellow" (p. xii) but does not have hepatitis, is solved by an internist who takes her history again, examines her, rereads her chart and test results and has an "aha" moment where he puts together all the clues to come up with a rare disease which he then verifies by a trip to the library and a close look at her irises to see if there is a golden ring around the outer edge. If you have watched the TV show House, you may recognize this disease from one episode.

I suspect that my friends, family and colleagues will be glad that I have finished the book so that I will no longer regale them with alarming stories of medical near-misses while they are dining. Librarians who took their lunch in the staff room this week provided a captive audience for my chapter by chapter synopses of this book. I will check it in and now it goes to the patron who saw it on my desk and asked to be put on hold for it. Enjoy, but don't come down with every symptom you read about. That's "Intern's Disease" a manifestation of the power of suggestion.

Every Patient Tells a Story is non-fiction that will appeal to fans of medical novels by Patricia Cornwell, Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, Michael Palmer, Abraham Verghese or Tess Gerritson.
Also of interest: The Medical Science of House

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Carry On, Jeeves

The other week I was looking through the audiobooks on CD for something to listen to while I drove home. Nothing jumped out at me, and I didn't feel like listening to nonfiction or a mystery, my usual choices. Literary fiction is too difficult to listen to while you drive (hence my tenuous grasp of what happened in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer), and so I resignedly picked out the audiobook by P.G. Wodehouse that was on the shelf. I only knew that Anne really likes P.G. Wodehouse and we like a lot of the same books, so I tried it. I had flipped through some P.G. Wodehouse books as a teenager and found too many "I say, old chap" lines to even think about checking any of his books out.

Luckily, the audiobook (The Inimitable Jeeves) was one of the Jeeves series by Wodehouse . Jeeves is the clever valet of an endearing but unbrainy young rich man named Bertie Wooster, and Jeeves is always arranging behind the scenes so that the problem of the chapter (often humorous) comes to a natural solution.

I was also lucky enough to get a book narrated by Martin Jarvis, who has performed as Jeeves on Broadway. In the same way that Shakespeare is more intelligible when you see it performed (well, some parts of it anyway), the 1920s slang of the audio version doesn't bother me anymore. The British accents are a bit strong if you're not used to them, though. Now no other audiobooks will do but Jeeves audiobooks - I've graduated to My Man, Jeeves.

Jeeves is now thought of as a butler in popular culture (he's a valet in the Wodehouse books) and inspired for a few years (which is now Jeeveless and calls itself Other random facts: the Lodges' butler in Archie comics is named not Jeeves, but Smithers. And we think of chauffeurs as "James", as in "Home, James," which was popularized by a 1934 song.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Winifred Watson's charming 1938 novel Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was reprinted by Persephone Press and made into a movie fifty years after it first appeared. Miss Pettigrew is a poor, middle-aged governess who mistakenly is sent to a zany, socialite's apartment for a new job post. There, prim Miss Pettigrew becomes fast friends with Miss Delysia La Fosse, nightclub singer and bon vivant. Appearing first as a fine example of "what not to wear," Miss P. is transformed, Cinderella-like, by Miss La F. into a glamourous vision in black velvet, sparkling jewelry and, for the first time in her life, a generous application of powder, rouge and eyebrow pencil. After that, Miss Pettigrew experiences a joie de vivre she has never before felt and, not to spoil the suspense, it isn't long before romance is on the horizon for our lonely spinster.

If you like E.F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia (1931) series or E.M. Delafield's Diary of a Country Lady (1931), you might enjoy this light period piece.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What's With the Bathtubs, Cialis?

Regular readers of this blog know that we get some pretty odd questions at the Reference Desk, but we try to find the answers regardless of what the question is or why the person wants to know.
Today's question: what's with the people in the bathtubs at the end of every Cialis TV ad? Googling the phrase "bathtubs Cialis" turns up 2,570,000 hits - which made us realize that many people are concerned about this issue. Some of the comments online were quite creative in trying to find a reason for the bathtubs image, but we wanted the real reason from the horses mouth. So I called the helpline of Lilly, the drug company that makes Cialis. I stated the question explaining that I am a librarian and people really want to know the answer. Without skipping a beat, the operator answered,

"It's up to the interpretation of the viewer."

Period. End of story, though not unkindly. I asked her if she gets this question often since her answer was so quick and do I dare say, firm?

"Sometimes," she politely said.

I asked if Lilly would ever let the ad's creative person be interviewed or release a statement about the bathtub meaning and she said again,

"It's up to the interpretation of the viewer."

I pleaded a bit more for enlightenment, but feeling that no more information was forthcoming and wanting to end the conversation on an up note, we thanked each other and hung up.

So there you have it.

Anyone's guess is as good as anyone elses in this case. Like art, it's open to interpretation is the company's claim.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vacation Reading continued

To continue yesterday's post about what I read while on vacation, I stopped reading Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (for now) once I was on Terra Firma again and had access to the pile of books on my bedside table which I had not packed.
First up: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue, the story of six year old Henry Day who runs away from home and is replaced by a hobgoblin or changeling. The childlike changelings live in the woods and wait for their chance to kidnap a small child and replace him with one of their tribe. The kidnapped child then becomes a changeling and has to wait many years to find the opportunity to get back into the human world. Meanwhile, the parents with the replacement child do not notice, or refuse to acknowledge, that their child seems somehow different. In Henry's case, the new Henry comes with an incredible musical talent that the original Henry lacked. The book alternates between the human world and the immortal, feral world of the changelings.

Somehow this summary does not do the book justice; it's one of those books which is hard to describe. If you are thinking, 'no, not interested in such a weird topic,' I would advise you to read some other reviews and most of all to give the book a try. If you liked The Time Traveler's Wife (the book, not the movie which has been soundly panned by all) the element of being outside of one's life waiting to get back in is similar. Or it would interest readers who like elements of the mystical underside of everyday life, vampire fans, perhaps, or readers of fantasy. Although I don't like vampire books or fantasy much, so the book would seem to fall between the genre cracks. Whatever niche this book is assigned, it is well worth reading.

Wikipedia's article on Yeat's poem, the Stolen Child, which inspired author Keith Donohue

more Stolen Child Reviews on BookBrowse

Monday, August 17, 2009

What I Read on My Vacation

Remember when the teacher asked you to write about what you read during summer vacation? If we told the truth: 'I read nothing but Nancy Drew and comic books all summer,' we knew that wouldn't go over so well. Here's the truth about what I read on my week off. No newspapers for starters and when I got home the news was the same as when I left. Supposedly August is a slow news month: Congress goes on vacation and so do many of the reporters who cover Congress. So even if a tree fell in the forest, there would be no reporter around to tell us about it. I didn't watch TV news either and rarely went on a computer. Those townhall meetings: missed it. Whew! I noticed that people in the airports played with their cell phones rather than reading paperbacks or newspapers or magazines. Clickety clack, many many tweets and text messages flew through cyberspace, but only two people reading the old-fashioned way. One man, bald, two earrings in one ear, mismatched plaid shorts and plaid shirt, was reading - a crochet pattern. He was crotcheting at an impressive pace.
Back to my summer reading list: Me Tanner, You Jane, an Evan Tanner novel (c 1970) by Lawrence Block. I like Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries, but this one, featuring a James Bond kind of spy in Africa, felt dated and I wouldn't recommend it unless you like very light, old-fashioned spy thrillers.
On the plane, I read Michael Crichton's Next (2006) which is about genetic engineering gone awry. Like all Crichton's books, it was a real page-turner and he was in top form in this one. Funny in a scary, sardonic way with lots of information about how academia and the government and drug companies can patent genes which has some interesting implications.
I finished that book before my vacation was over and my daughter gave me two books to take back home (to the family archives, I guess I have the most shelf space) including Michael Connelly's City of Bones, which I had already read and recommend if you like dark police procedurals. The other book in my purse on the way home was Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, which I think I read way back when all the baby boomers were reading his books, but I wasn't sure. Somehow it just didn't suit flying to EWR by way of Allentown, Pa because of the weather. Although maybe Vonnegut would have found some weird irony in that. I didn't. I was just hoping the pilot really could find an airport amongst the green fields of Pa. He did. Finally. We clapped.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BYKI: Before You Know It Online Language Learning

BHPL is now offering free access to cardholders to an online language learning system called BYKI Online Library Edition! BYKI stands for Before You Know It and is based on the product (Transparent Language) used by top government language schools like the Foreign Service Institute and the Defense Language Institute. There are 73 foreign languages offered, from Afrikaans to Zulu. To get your own BYKI account, go to the library web site, click on Remote Databases and log in with your library card barcode number. Then, click on BYKI and choose a username and password so you can track your progress.

BYKI uses flashcards to teach you sets of words and phrases and periodically prompts you to recall phrases you've already learned, so you won't learn and then forget. You can analyze your pronunciation and take dictation in addition to taking multiple choice tests. Plus, you can follow BYKI through Facebook or Twitter and get daily updates that will help you with the language you've chosen to learn.


Friday, August 7, 2009

What Color Should I Paint My House?

A patron with a Colonial Revival clapboard and cedar shake house wants to know what color to paint it. BHPL happens to have piles of gorgeous house painting, decorating and architecture books, some of which she looked through including:

Exterior Style, inspiring color ideas and expert painting advice by Benjamin Moore Paints (698.12 Ben) has practical advice, 110 color pictures of different styles of houses from Victorian to stucco Southwestern Mission to Tudor Revival and Split Level. The book also shows "One House, 4 Color Options" which is very helpful to show how color changes the feel of a house.

The Perfectly Painted House, a foolproof guide for choosing exterior paint colors by Bonnie Rosser Krims(698.12 Kri) is arranged by color groups with different housing styles to illustrate each color.

Even though the patron's house is not a Victorian, we recommended Painted Ladies, San Francisco's Resplendent Victorians (728.37 Bae) and the sequel, Daughters of Painted Ladies (728.37 Pom) just for the fun of seeing the wild colors of these houses.

For a more subdued, rustic look, Sea-Captains' Houses and Rose-Covered Cottages, the Architectural Heritage of Nantucket Island (728.37 Boo) and Cottage, America's Favorite Home Inside and Out (728.37 Con) also provide ideas for house color schemes., the website that has experts who write articles on common questions, has a guide to "Free Tools to Help You Choose House Paint Colors." These free websites let you try different colors out on a picture of a house similar to yours with which hours of perfectly good time can be passed, kind of like a computer game for home improvement fans.

Valspar/Lowes has a webpage for colors that work on Colonial Revival Homes and Federal Greek Revival Colors (picture shown) and other styles.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis

Madame X with her strap painted back into place

The library book group will be meeting this Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. to discuss Strapless. Strapless is the fascinating history of the artist John Singer Sargent and Amelie Gautreau, whose portrait by Sargent is known as Madame X. Davis begins with Amelie's history. Her father was one of the men who revived New Orleans' Mardi Gras parade back in 1857, and they owned Parlange Plantation. After her father's death in the Civil War, Amelie was brought up in Paris during its Belle Epoque and married into a rich family that made its fortune in bat guano, banking and shipping; but this came in handy in a city where "a woman of Amelie's class could spend 40,000 francs a year (more than $100,000 today)" (page 51) on her appearance.

John Singer Sargent had won an honorable mention in the 1879 Paris Salon for a painting of his teacher, Carolus Duran, which meant (fatefully) that the Salon could never reject any of his future entries. After more well received paintings (including a portrait of the gynecologist and womanizer Samuel-Jean Pozzi, another interesting "character" in the book, and El Jaleo, a painting of Spanish dancers), Sargent wanted a painting that would make him famous. Amelie was already a famous beauty, but neither of them were prepared for the outraged reception Madame X would get (mostly because of the suggestive fallen strap of Amelie's evening dress).

No one else has posted discussion questions on the Internet for this book yet, so you're stuck with mine. Enjoy.

Did you "side" with Amelie or Sargent at any point? Did your sympathies change over the course of the book? Or did you feel more like an observer?

What was the most interesting thing you learned from the book?

Why is the portrait known as Madame X instead of "Portrait of Virginie Amelie Gautreau"?

What do you think about the author's theory that Sargent had romantic crushes on Pozzi and Belleroche (see pages 118 and 121 in the paperback edition)? Is it visible in their portraits below? Or do you think we're reading too much into his art?

Shark Week on TV

The Discovery Channel's Shark Week, started last night and continues through Friday. Last night's Blood in the Water covered the shark attacks in New Jersey during the summer of 1916 which were the basis for the book and movie Jaws by Peter Benchley. The Shark Guide on the Discovery Channel's website has pictures and information on different kinds of sharks, links to shark news and accounts of shark attacks, shark myths and also shark videos.

For shark information at the Berkeley Heights Public Library, browse in Dewey # 597.3 upstairs and in the Juvenile Department.

Recommended Reading:

Jaws by Peter Benchley was a great summer read, a real page turner for the beach. Recommended for teens and adults.

In 2001 two books came out about the 1916 NJ shark attacks.

Close to Shore, a true story of terror in an age of innocence by Michael Capuzzo, which read like a novel and also told about the increasing popularity of the Jersey Shore tourism for the middle class. It's almost like the shark KNEW there were more tourists in the water. Nom nom nom. Yikes! At the time, scientists did not realize that sharks, other than the Great White, attack humans so the shark attacks were a horrible surprise and something of a mystery.

Twelve Days of Terror, a definitive investigation of the 1916 New Jersey shark attacks by Richard G. Fernicola, MD.

I can personally recommend Mr. Capuzzo's book, one of the few non-fiction books I read that year, and Dr. Fernicola's also got good reviews and is checked out as I write this post. Parents: if you are looking for books that will interest your teen, try these gory stories of real shark attacks. Teens will eat them up.
Photo of Great White Shark from Discovery Channel website.