Essays & Criticism

Book Review: Louise Aronson’s A HISTORY OF THE PRESENT ILLNESS


Christopher’s book review appears in Saint Ann’s Review of A HISTORY OF THE PRESENT ILLNESS, from author Louise Aronson. An anticipated new literary voice from Bloomsbury USA, with an MFA in fiction and an MD from Harvard, this is Aronson’s debut, drawing from her experiences of becoming and being a doctor.

Louise Aronson takes readers into overlooked lives in the neighborhoods, hospitals, and nursing homes of San Francisco. She has won the Sonora Review Prize, the New Millennium Short Fiction Award, three Pushcart nominations, and has been awarded UCross, Ragdale and Hedgebrook Foundation residencies.

Here is the opening of the review of Louise Aronson’s A HISTORY OF THE PRESENT ILLNESS:

A woman is out walking dogs when she sees a boy fall from a cliff. She is medically-trained but does not move to his aid quickly enough—what then is her code, and what causes her to hesitate? Is it possible for those in her life, and for us as readers, to come to terms with the training she left behind and the person she chose to become? Louise Aronson, herself a medical doctor, sheds light on such intimate questions in her debut collection A History of the Present Illness.

The opening sentence of the first story, “Snapshots from an Institution,” reveals what Aronson has set out to do: a patient, as of yet unnamed, “lies in bed the way a letter lies in its envelope.” In the context of the whole collection, this metaphor is striking—if unintended, it is prescient—for connecting the dots between patient and story. As a letter is a vehicle for meaningful narrative, in Aronson’s writing the patients and doctors are the medium through which meaning resonates.

Click here to read the full review at Saint Ann’s Review.

Also visit the Saint Ann’s Review website. Here is a Publisher’s Description:

The Saint Ann’s Review, published twice yearly by Saint Ann’s School, an independent, secular school in Brooklyn, New York, is an eclectic compendium of the best-crafted writing around. Eschewing trendiness and rigid convention alike, this visually striking magazine provides a forum for the most diverse voices. We like a good argument in prose, audacity in poetry, tension through control in each. We consider translation an important part of our endeavor. Our interviews of artists are conducted by artists, interviews of writers (of E.L. Doctorow, of Edwidge Danticat) conducted by writers.

Contributors have included writers Mary-Beth Hughes, Thomas Beller, Mary Gordon, Paul Lafarge, Jane Avrich and Diane Greco; poets Dennis Nurkse, John Hollander, Harvey Shapiro, Susan Wheeler, Mervyn Taylor, and Anna Ziegler; artists Louise Bourgeois, Lola Schnabel, Carroll Dunham, Chitra Ganesh, and Katherine Merz; reviewers Meghan O’Rourke and William R. Everdell.

Of The Saint Ann’s Review, Philip Levine writes, “What you’re doing is wonderful…floating a true literary magazine out of Brooklyn and presenting the old and the new…” Richard Ford sends these words: “The magazine entirely is very impressive.” And Edwidge Danticat writes simply, “It was wonderful reading.”

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