Monday, April 27, 2009

Kirsten Menger-Anderson

From Kirsten Menger-Anderson's with Donna George Storey at Sex, Food, and Writing, about Menger-Anderson's Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain:

DGS: How did you come to write a novel-in-stories about the history of medicine in America?

KMA: First off, thanks for inviting me to your blog! It's a pleasure to be here.

The history of medicine has intrigued me ever since I looked up "phrenology" in the dictionary and marveled that reading human characteristics in the contours of the skull was once common belief. What other (now discredited) medical ideas have we held, I began to wonder. I discovered the works of Jan Bondeson, Carl Zimmer, and several other medical historians and science writers who tell captivating tales of practices that read like fiction: curative radium, lobotomy, therapies requiring ground millipede and mercury. These techniques and the contemporaneous debates about life, death, and the soul took hold of my imagination. Who were the people who believed humans could birth rabbits? Or that routine bleeding could cure the common cold? I began to look at how doctors and the medical philosophies of previous generations impacted daily life, and I ended up with a book that covers 350 years of medical history.

One of the many pleasures of reading Dr. Olaf van Schuler’s Brain is the wealth of historical detail about New York City over the centuries, which clearly represents a lot of background research. Can you tell us about your process? Do you have any tips for historical research for fiction writers?

Much of my research about New York began with...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain.

--Marshal Zeringue