Vincent Lamb is reading from his book Bloodletting and Other Miraculous Cures. He showed us a variety of book cover that were suggested for his book. Some of the covers were quite humourous. His book was published in 2006. He spoke of being shocked and amazed that his book won the Giller. The reason he feels is that it crosses the field of medicine and literature.
Lam suggested that there are a lot of parallels between doctors and writers, ie they spend lots of time in the library. Lam said there are a lot of doctors who are writers. What is the link? He says that writers and doctors, like shamans have an ancient shared core - they are storytellers.
Doctors go off to medical school, shamans go off for personal journey, the writer goes off and writes – personal deprivation and isolation are shared conditions. After this period, the doctor, the shaman and the writer bring something back that benefits others - the doctor his knowledge of medicine, the writer his book and the shaman his visions and stories.
Lam says that we desire an experience that transcends ourselves. Books do this. We enter the writer’s world. Just as we trust the writer when we enter his world, we trust the doctor when we enter his. The shaman lives in 2 worlds just as do writers and doctors. The doctor, the writer, the shaman inhabits the world of spirits.
For medicine, language is the bedrock. Writers and shaman also operate with language as the foundations of their practice. The art of medicine is the art of storytelling. Patients tell doctors stories and as a doctor, he must understand that story. He must pick up the thread of the narrative from the patient and provide an interpretation. That is the foundation of medicine. It took Lam 3 years to realize that writing and medicine are the same thing.
A soft-spoken man (I found it sometimes difficult to hear him), his comparison of doctors, writers and shamans was very intriguing.