The cardboard box marked “Emergency Medical Shipment” thumps down on Lillian Jackson’s desk in the supplies department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Inside she finds a sealed plastic bag of water in which dozens of small black creatures are happily swimming around. Leeches, again! Without hesitation, Jackson sends the creatures to the hospital’s trauma unit, where nurse Rene Kopp takes charge. Over the next few days, Kopp will apply the leeches to chosen patients – to suck their blood. “We’ve been doing it for years,” says Jackson.
The “cabinets of curiosity” of the 16th and 17th centuries housed the extraordinary souvenirs that European missionaries and other travellers brought back from the New World and the East. Stuffed birds with brilliantly coloured plumage sat alongside seashells larger than the human body and mummies plucked from Africa’s desert sands. But, as French surgeon Pierre Dionis discovered, sometimes the marvels in your own backyard are the strangest of all. When Dionis stumbled across a leathery fetus-like object in a priest’s collection, he resolved to learn the truth about it. Could it really be that this misshapen object was the product of a 23-year-long pregnancy?
“Holly Tucker selects revelatory studies of fairy tales.”
“Mommy, if you had to live on a desert island, what would you bring with you? Besides me and daddy.” My 7-year-old daughter asked me this question the other day. I’m an avid reader and a writer by profession, so I told her that I’d bring as many books as I could carry.
“What would you bring, honey?” I asked. She answered in a voice filled with grade-school confidence: “I would bring the picture of your family that you love so much.”
Review of Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst.
Review of iBRAIN: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan.