The Illustrated Family Doctor
Picador, $16.95 pb, 283 pp
How do you define despair? You might choose to describe it as ‘a chemical imbalance of the brain, resulting in fragmented perceptions, often associated with grief and pessimism’. That is the definition Gary Kelp comes across in the course of his working day. It seems to fit. ‘I imagined a picture of myself to go with the text,’ he says, ‘sitting there at the bar, staring into my drink.’
Gary works for an organisation called Information Digest, a company which produces condensed books. He cuts, pastes, rewrites, clarifies: his current assignment is to update a book called The Illustrated Family Doctor, a lay person’s medical guide. The task distresses him, particularly the images of the body he confronts on his computer screen.