Issue 421 | The Sun Magazine

January 2011

Readers Write


Han’s Clinic in Hongsong, South Korea, an adopted dog, a kidney transplant

By Our Readers
The Dog-Eared Page

The Mysterious Placebo

excerpted from
Anatomy Of An Illness As Perceived By The Patient

Over long centuries, doctors have been educated by their patients to observe the prescription ritual. Most people seem to feel their complaints are not taken seriously unless they are in possession of a little slip of paper with indecipherable but magic markings. To the patient, a prescription is a certificate of assured recovery.

By Norman Cousins
Sy Safransky's Notebook

January 2011

I haven’t written in more than a week. Forgive me, O Muse, for being absent without leave. Maybe it’s the Prozac. Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s because I’m too damn vain. Can’t I put down simple words and send them out the door?

By Sy Safransky


I had never gone to a doctor in my adult life, feeling instinctively that doctors meant either cutting or, just as bad, diet.

Carson McCullers

The Sun Interview

Vital Signs

Dr. Andrew Weil Diagnoses Western Medicine

The Western scientific paradigm is materialistic, meaning that scientists do not believe in anything that cannot be perceived or measured. Look how restrictive that belief is. It’s the reason for the limited acceptance of mind-body medicine. The nonphysical causation of physical events is not allowed for in the reigning scientific paradigm. If you talk about nonphysical causes of changes in physical systems, materialists either ignore you or make fun of you or, if you keep at it, get angry with you.

By David Kupfer
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

What She Bought

I learned that what drives the shopper is the dream that if she finally makes the exact-right purchase, she will be happy. This is not unlike the drug addict’s search for a drug or combination of drugs that will finally make her feel the way she wants to feel. The worst thing that can happen to an addict is to have a lot of money, which Joan does. Then the choices are unlimited, and the party goes on far too long.

By Lois Judson
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Everything’s Going To Be OK

I’m sitting with my old friends Ron, David, and Neil at one of the tables along the back wall of what was once my favorite bar. We’ve been pals since we were in high school, the surviving members of a close-knit group. It’s always good to get together with these guys, but it’s impossible to do so without thinking about the friends who are no longer with us.

By Alan Craig
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

The Burden Of Bearing Fruit

Everyone who came over said of the cherry, “Great tree,” especially in July, when its fruit started to ripen. The squirrels and the birds took the lion’s share, mocking me by dropping half-eaten cherries on the patio and the lawn. I ate only the ones I could reach simply by pulling down a branch and plucking. I’d had Rainier cherries from the store, but these fruits were a surprise: the flesh so sweet and yet so complex; the firm skin giving way to the textured meat beneath; almost like a golden plum, but small and round and mine.

By Brenda Miller
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Going Under

At the age of five I was a sickly kid, with monthly throat infections that spread to my eardrums, making my ears hurt as if some angry god were throwing darts at them. My parents brought me to specialists, who recommended a tonsillectomy. It was the prevailing wisdom in the 1950s.

By Wolf Pascoe

Do You Know How Much I Love You?

We lived in a small yellow three-bedroom ranch on a dead-end street with no circle to turn around in: the street just ended. I had my own room, and my younger sister, Jody, had hers. There were big bay windows in front and a deck off the back, and my father built the house himself.

By Annie Weatherwax

What People Say When They Mean Something Other Than What They Say

I have become a broken student of what people say / When they mean something other than what they say. / I have been dealing with some things meant pregnant.

By Brian Doyle

His Name Is John

If you hadn’t named him, you could say / it wasn’t meant to be. / If you’d had another boy, / you could’ve wiped the slate clean

By Ed Meek