Riding a Crocodile: A Physician’s Tale
UWA Publishing, $26.99 pb, 357 pp, 9781742586199
There is a long tradition of physicians turned writers, including Chekhov, Keats, Conan Doyle, and Somerset Maugham. More recent doctor–novelists include Alexander McCall Smith, Michael Crichton, and Khaled Hosseini. In Australia, Peter Goldsworthy is probably our most prominent writer–physician, with John Murray and now Paul Komesaroff joining the tradition.
Medicine provides plenty of material for the novelist. As Peter Goldsworthy said in an interview in the Medical Journal of Australia: ‘You can’t write a novel unless you have constant human contact – talking to people, listening to what they say, and studying their character – medicine’s perfect for that.’ A medical practitioner sees diverse people, often in crisis. They watch relationships change, and fail to change. They witness messy storylines being played out in front of them. They confront birth and death, disease and desire.