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Friday, February 5, 2016

Lessons Of Demopolis, by Josiah Ober, Aeon

Wisdom from classical Greece: democracy and liberalism are both better off if we understand the difference between them.

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, Doctor: On Epigenetics, Placebos, And “The Lost Art Of Healing”, by Andrew Bomback, Los Angeles Review of Books

Lillian came to my office for a second opinion. Her first nephrologist had just done a kidney biopsy and handed her a diagnosis of fibrillary glomerulonephritis, an extremely rare form of kidney disease whose annual incidence is less than 50 cases per year. “My doctor said you were the only one who could help me,” she said, trying to muster a smile. I told her the truth: we knew very little about what causes fibrillary glomerulonephritis, and therefore we knew even less about what treatments might help. I suggested a course of the only therapy that had been shown, in case reports, to work for her disease, the monoclonal antibody rituximab, although the rationale for why this drug would work for this specific disease was at best speculative.

Six months later, her local nephrologist sent her back for another second opinion, specifically about whether she should try a second course of rituximab. Her lab results showed no response to the drug. “In fact,” I said, “if anything, your kidneys have gotten worse in the last six months.” Lillian started to tear up. When I offered her a box of tissues, her crying intensified. She soon fell into near hysterics. Her wailing was the only sound in the room. Two medical students were shadowing me that afternoon, and Lillian’s crying was clearly making them uncomfortable. I told her we would re-dose the rituximab. “I think a second round of therapy will help,” I said. “You will get better.” She stopped crying. “You really think so?” she asked. “Yes.” This was not an outright lie, because, if her kidneys failed, she’d get a transplant, in which case she would technically get better. When she left the office, the medical students asked me if I really thought she’d get better. “No,” I said, “but she needs to have some hope right now.” They laughed, but I was serious. And Lillian did get better.

The Epic Uncool Of Philip Seymour Hoffman, by Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve

When Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an accidental drug overdose on February 2, 2014 at age 46, it felt like a huge part of the past two decades of cinema had disappeared as well, as if all the wonderful characters he created were on some level buried with the man who played them. A shocked public experienced a profound double loss. They were mourning the Hoffman who took up such formidable real estate in many modern classics. But they were also mourning all the brilliant Hoffman performances to come, which were extinguished with Hoffman’s death.

In 'The Lost Time Accidents,' John Wray Balances The Logical And The Ludicrous, by Janelle Brown, Los Angeles Times

"Chronology is an illusion, if not a deliberate lie," a character posits in "The Lost Time Accidents," the fourth offering from novelist John Wray. "The steady, one-way current we seem to be suspended in is actually a jumble of spherical 'chronocosms' that can be moved through in any direction, if some great force manages to knock one's consciousness out of its preconditioned circuit."

If you're not quite sure what all that means, never fear. The fine line between hokum and rational thinking is precisely the point of "The Lost Time Accidents"; a brick of a book not just because of its length but because of the density of both the prose and the ideas it contains.

Travelers Rest By Keith Lee Morris Review – A Chilling Stopover In Good Night, Idaho, by Michael Marshall Smith, The Guardian

s self-help gurus and internet memes continually remind us, our lives are a story we are empowered to write ourselves. Travelers Rest provides a thoughtful take on this idea, interweaving the melancholy stories of Tonio and Julia Addison, their 10-year‑old son Dewey, and ne’er-do‑well Uncle Robbie.

Six Months Dry, by Rebecca Chekouras, Pithead Chapel

I stopped drinking when my father died. That was in July, on the Sunday that ended the long holiday weekend. It wasn’t from shock or grief but rather I stopped drinking as a gesture, as a mark of my ambition for his soul. He died drunk behind the wheel in an accident of his own making.

I remember his hair-raising roulette with drinking and driving when I was a child. Coming home from cook-outs or family gatherings, my brother Aristos and I developed a routine around our father’s violent swerves to stay on the road. When my blond Germanic mother stiffened in the front seat and stretched her hand out to the dashboard, her arm a rigid brace, Aristos and I would assume the crash position in back, hoping to be spared should we hit a tree, a cement pylon, a bridge railing, whatever. The better defense, I realized after I’d been away at college for a year, was to avoid my father entirely. I hadn’t spoken to any of my family in twenty years when my mother e-mailed to say what we’d waited for so long to happen finally had.

February: Pemaquid Point, by Ira Sadoff