Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fiction and Diagnosis

I found something remarkable (aside from the story itself, which is excellent) in Drood (Little, Brown and Company, 2009), Dan Simmons' new 771-page doorstopper of a novel about Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and the mysterious Edwin Drood.

On page 45, Wilkie Collins, the narrator of the book, says:

"The bane of my life was––is, and ever shall be–––rheumatical gout. Sometimes it is in my leg. More often it moves to my head, frequently lodging like a hot iron spike behind my right eye. I deal with this constant pain (and it is constant) through strength of personality. And opium taken in the form of laudanum."

Other than the constancy (I do not, thank God, suffer from gout on a constant basis) the headache is a precise description of one of my own frequent symptoms, down to its location and the very words I have used to describe the pain. I had never before associated it with gout. The next time this happens, I will be interested in seeing whether my gout pills work on the headache. Nothing else will make it go away.

The opiates, of course, are not an option.


Blogger oyen said...


Drood - will have to check it out :) I tried reading Charles Dickens... I wasn't able to finish the book. I think it's because I can't keep up with too much words and too little plot movement :P It's a generating sickness to be so in love with fast paced stories.

And regarding your gout problem, I think you should get a doctor's advise. I have a very young friend (21) who has gouty arthritis and I think all sorts of things are affected by it - not only his legs.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Radish King said...

Oh it sounds wonderful. Like Peter Carey's Jack Mag or Mags can't remember. I love sprawling Edwardian/Victorian novels.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Karen J. Weyant said...

Thanks for the note Greg -- I loved Drood, just talking about the book at lunch today! You should also read The Terror by Simmons (If you haven't yet!)

6:38 PM  

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