The Woman who Swallowed her Cat and Other Gruesome Medical Tales, Rob Myers, M.D., 310 pgs, ECW Press, ecwpress.com, $16.95
Just like the freak show acts of yore and the present-day spectacle of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, there is something eternally fascinating about the ways our bodies can go wrong. Doctor and author Rob Myers scoured thousands of case reports for the most disturbing and fascinating tidbits for his new book of short stories, The Woman Who Swallowed Her Cat.
In 50 short stories, Myers plays with that can’t-look-away appeal of the grotesque and the peculiar. Each tale ends in either accident or death, always walking a fine line between short story and case study. The writing too has a clinical precision; Myers wastes no words on banter or overwrought character development. Instead his stories work best as cautionary tales told in a voice of parody—control your anger around a Coke machine, don’t try to fit down a chimney during a robbery and resist the urge to spend every waking minute eating.
The title story of the collection tells the story of a woman named Marla who is gradually drawn into the grips of bipolar affective disorder as her frustrated neighbour, Beatrice, watches and waits, wondering when to commit her. The unhinged Marla paints her lawn purple and carries her furniture out onto the grass. When Marla stops leaving the house altogether, Bea panics and calls the police. Marla has fallen over the sharp edge of insanity, eating her cat and choking to death on a kidney.
Every story presents the same bewildering stuff, though Myers assures everything is true. That is, almost everything. Forty-nine of these tales are drawn from years of research; one is fabricated. Myers, of course, never tells which one. This is an effective trick that made me pore over the details of each
story, trying to separate out the truth. Give it a try yourself, but be warned:
these stories are not for the faint of heart. (Cassie Leigh Clancy)