Thursday, June 20, 2019

Michael Blumlein

Michael Blumlein is the author of several novels and story collections, including the award-winning The Brains of Rats. He has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and twice for the Bram Stoker. His story "Fidelity: A Primer" was short-listed for the Tiptree. He has written for both stage and film, including the award-winning independent film Decodings (included in the Biennial Exhibition of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and winner of the Special Jury Award of the SF International Film Festival). His novel X,Y was made into a feature-length movie. Until his recent retirement Dr. Blumlein taught and practiced medicine at the University of California in San Francisco.

Blumlein's new novella is Longer.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished reading the table of contents of the latest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Not too much to excite me in this one, save for an article on stem cells (deliberately positioned, no doubt, as a dissenting view to our government's anti-stem cell, anti-science madness.) Apart from its science, the NEJM has reliably interesting articles on the ethics, politics and public policy concerning health.

Next up is this week's Nature, which has some cool looking research on genomics, biology and neuroscience. These two journals and a handful of others form the bulk of my non-fiction reading. They keep me more or less abreast of what's happening in the world of health and biology. They feed my brain.

Fiction feeds my heart and soul, as well as my brain. I'll read anything and everything, and I do, provided it doesn't put me to sleep.

What keeps me awake? Pretty much what you'd expect: a book that makes me think and feel, preferably deeply; a book that makes me shake my head in wonder; that makes me laugh; that inspires me (usually to stop reading and get to work); that lets me escape, but never for too too long.

Recently, I was blown away by Cassandra at the Wedding, by Dorothy Baker. A brilliant, beautifully written, psychologically astute novel about twins, loss, attempted suicide and...I won't divulge the rest. With a brief but memorable appearance by a rarity in fiction: a sympathetic and very human psychiatrist. This is a book you'll want to tell your friends about.

This one too: Solar Bones, by Mike McCormack. Poetic, expansive, generous in nearly every way. A man's life as father, son, husband, lover, and engineer unspools in a single sentence. McCormack makes it work, and you barely notice. It feels like a bedtime story. The voice is everything.

Clay's Ark, by Octavia Butler: Biological science fiction at its finest. Written 35 years ago and reads as if it were penned yesterday. Unputdownable. Chilling, unflinching, humanistic and then some. It turns out that love and tolerance do help when you're dealing with...well, with anyone.

The Queen's Gambit, by Walter Tevis. An old favorite. My copy is coming apart at the seams. A troubled orphan finds her way, a prodigy comes of age, an addict gets straight. The early scene with the janitor in the basement kills me every time.

The Chill, by Ross Macdonald. Sharp-eyed, humane, and relentless. The characters vibrate off the page. The ending is twisted and perfect.

Pain: A Political History, by Keith Wailoo. Non-fiction and riveting. This is the story of pain and its treatment in the US from the 19th century to today. A master historian and storyteller, Wailoo examines our understanding of pain, our definition of pain, and our perception of pain through the decades. Shows the pendulum of treatment swinging back and forth, often holding whole groups hostage to misapprehension and prejudice. He pins today's opioid crisis squarely where it belongs: on everyone. Big pharma, government, doctors, nurses, patients, pharmacists. How it did get so bad? Greed? Tunnel Vision? Deregulation? Put them together and what does it spell: free market capitalism.
Visit Michael Blumlein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue