The list of hit television shows based on the medical field is long: Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Private Practice, Mercy, House, Scrubs, and on and on! For some reason (this is worth thinking about), we’re fascinated with the various woes that afflict our bodies, along with the flawed people who work on them in our time of need.
Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures elevates our pop-culture fascination with medicine to literature. Lam follows the lives of some loosely related medical students from entrance exams into hospital life with this collection of twelve short stories.
Vincent Lam has the credentials to write about medicine: he studied medicine in Toronto, the setting of some of these stories, and is himself an ER physician. Though this is his first work of fiction, he writes with a deep insight into human nature. In the story, “Winston,” Dr. Sri has to determine whether his patient is psychotic or justifiably paranoid. By the time the short story is over, I felt like I genuinely knew Winston—as well as Dr. Sri.
This collection of stories won the Scotiabank Giller Prize—Canada’s highest paying literary award for fiction. For a taste of the quality of Lam’s literary chops, read this paragraph:
The church bells are the sky, are the ether of blue and breeze, and they vibrate from a distance so that the notes intermingle and warble with the hiss of air conditioners. All of this sizzles over the popping rumble of streetcars. The light through the blinds falls diagonally in fat stripes on the floor, and is warm on the carpet whose stains are highlighted and made attractive, important.
It’s rare to find a work of fiction is as compelling as Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures.
—Vincent Lam, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures (Toronto, ON: Anchor Canada, 2005).