I was one of 160 at a luncheon today featuring Abraham Verghese, and yes I felt guilty that I have still not read the book. I’m working on it.
What did I expect to hear? I figured he would stand behind the podium and read a favorite passage from CUTTING FOR STONE. Then he would peek (often) at his prepared notes and tell us a little about how the spark for this novel came about, and answer a few questions about the writing life. The standard writer-gives-a-reading fare.
None of these things happened.
He stepped out from behind the podium — not a single note in hand — and in his strong, comforting voice began telling us his story: his childhood love of books, his Ethiopian upbringing, his passion for medicine and how connecting with his patients, and taking the time to listen to them, has made all the difference in his life. And what a life! I encourage you to read more about him and to check out his other books. I know I will.
Here are a few of the things he had to say today:
Why did he name this book CUTTING FOR STONE? He had the title before he even started writing the story. The words “cut for stone” come from the Hippocratic Oath. The main character’s name was originally Pickering, but he eventually changed it to Stone. He hesitated to give his reasons for choosing this title, wanting the reader to decide for herself what it means.
When does he find the time to write? He is now teaching medicine at Stanford, and they provide him with a separate (and secret) office where he can write. Whereas the other doctors go to their labs and do research for scholarly works, he spends this time writing.
His favorite books? We all know how difficult it is to narrow this down, but off the top of his head he chose W. Somerset Maugham’s OF HUMAN BONDAGE and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA.
A quote I will remember? Your geography is your destiny.
If you’d like to read more about Abraham, click here. I highly recommend this article, as it discusses his philosophy in teaching medical students to be compassionate, human healers instead of merely brilliant curers of disease. I dare you not to fall in love.