The Passions and Compassion of Abraham Verghese

I think I’m in love.

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.

9 thoughts on “The Passions and Compassion of Abraham Verghese

  1. erikamarks

    I have been hearing so many wonderful things about this book, Teri. I will likely buy it for my husband (who taught med students at one time) but I suspect I will find myself stealing it off his night table before he has a chance to dig in.

  2. MacDougal Street Baby

    I’m so relieved to hear that he’s a good egg. I have barely opened the book, ’tis true, but something about him enamored me from the start. Did he mention his process for the book at all? I’m always so curious as to whether an author knows the arc of their story or whether they just follow the road their characters lay out for them.

    1. Teri Post author

      He did not talk much about writing this book, nor his process, MSB. I think he ran out of time.

      This is why I love the archive of Paris Review Interviews. I love learning about everyone’s quirky process.

      And by the way, I’m still thinking about the “mene mom” and the crying stick figure from your post.

  3. glasseye

    He sounds amazing. Have you ever read Justice by Michael Sandel? I’ve got it on my Kindle and have read parts of it over and over after seeing the author interviewed by Charlie Rose. Something about your post reminded me of that book.

  4. Lyra

    Thank you for taking the time to share these wonderful author events. You’re my own Paris Review addendum. My husband gets me the Paris compilation books, everytime a new one comes out.
    Now the important question, how did the shoes look?
    And good luck today.

    1. Teri Post author

      Ha, Lyra, and thank you….

      And yes, for the important part: the shoes. It was raining and the parking lot had some flooded spots and I was so worried …. About my new shoes! They got soaked, but they were cute as hell. I can’t wait to wear them again. 🙂

    1. Teri Post author

      Thanks for your good wishes. It’s officially a clean bill of health for me. I’m big on all kinds of pre-screening — most of my family have met early cancer-related deaths of all kinds. I’m determined to be a feisty, heathy old lady.

      Have a great weekend, everyone. I appreciate you all.

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