The Doctor Stories

The Doctor Stories

The Doctor Stories

The Doctor Stories

Synopsis

These writings, together with Dr. Robert Coles's enthusiastic appraisal of teaching Williams and Dr. William Eric Williams's personal and touching filial account, "My Father, the Doctor," make up an intriguing and timely study of the poet as a physician of rare humanity and self-knowledge. As Coles suggests, Dr. Williams's writing can help many others take a knowing look at the medical profession.

Excerpt

A great privilege (and actually, turn of fate) befell me in the early 1950s, when I was encouraged by a fine professor- friend of mine, under whose supervision I'd written my undergraduate thesis, to send a note to William Carlos Williams and ask him whether he'd mind reading a college student's effort to understand his poetry, especially the first book of Paterson. This inquiry was not thoroughly gratuitous or self-serving, Professor Perry Miller kept insisting-- a response to my fearful hesitancy, an attitude which surely (I now realize) protected me from realizing how much of my pride, if not (as today's psychiatrists call it) narcissism had been put into that research and writing effort. This particular poet, Mr. Miller rreminded me several times, was hardly a favorite of many college professors, and might well enjoy reading what a student writing in an ivy-covered dormitory library managed to say about Paterson, wherein no huge flowering of ivy is recorded.

Soon enough, I'd dispatched my essay, and received a warm, friendly and lively response to it, coupled with an invitation to drop by; and soon enough I did. For me, to know Dr. Williams, to hear him talk about his writing and his life of medical work among the poor and working people of northern New Jersey, was to change direction markedly. Once headed for teaching, I set my sights for medical school. The result was a fairly rough time with both the pre-medical courses, not easy for me, and medical school itself, where I had a lot of trouble figuring out what kind of doctoring I'd be able to do with a modest amount of competence. During those years, ailing though Dr. Williams was, he found the time and energy to give me several much needed boosts--as in this comment: "Look, you're not out . . .

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