Thursday, April 8, 2010

Female Malady

Again, from The Thirteenth Tale by Dian Setterfield:

Dr. Clifton came. He listened to my heart and asked me lots of questions. "Insomia? Irregular sleep? Nightmares?"

I nodded three times.

"I thought so."

He took a thermometer and instructed me to place it under my tongue, then rose and strode to the window. With his back to me, he asked, "And what do you read?"

With the thermometer in my mouth I could not reply.

"Wuthering Heights--you've read that?"


"And Jane Eyre?"


"Sense and Sensibility?"


He turned and looked gravely at me. "And I suppose you've read these books more than once?"

I nodded and he frowned.

"Read and reread? Many times?"

Once more I nodded, and his frown deepened.

"Since childhood?"

I was baffled by his questions, but compelled by the gravity of his gaze, and nodded once again.

[ . . .]

He removed the thermometer from my mouth, folded his arms and delivered his diagnosis. "You are suffering from an ailment that afflicts ladies of romantic imagination. Symptoms include fainting, weariness, loss of appetite, low spirits. While on one level the crisis can be ascribed to wandering about in freezing rain without the benefit of adequate waterproofing, the deeper cause is more likely to be found in some emotional trauma. However, unlike the heroines of your favorite novels, your constitution has not been weakened by the privations of life in earlier, harsher centuries. You'll survive."

[ . . .]

"Treatment is not complicated: eat, rest, and take this . . ."--he made quick notes on a pad, tore out a page and place it on my bedside table--"and the weakness and fatigue will be gone in a few days."

[ . . .]

I reached for the prescription. In a virgorous scrawl, he had inked: Sir Author Conan Doyle, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. Take ten pages, twice a day, till end of course.


Anonymous said...


Jonathan G. Reinhardt said...

More truthful words have never been spoken.

Stephanie said...

What? The post? Or the first comment? :-)

Jonathan G. Reinhardt said...

I will be sending all my future daughters to this doctor.