Friday, November 11, 2011

"The Interior Castle" by Jean Stafford

Source: Miette's bedtime podcast (mp3)
Length: 1 hour, 1 minute
Reader: Miette

The story: In 1938, Stafford was seriously injured in a car accident, an experience which led her to write "The Interior Castle." In the story, Pansy Vanneman is bedridden in the hospital, with a host of injuries and an upcoming reconstructive surgery on her nose. Stafford's description of the pain Pansy experiences both before and during the surgery are some of the most disturbing passages I've ever read.

What's more striking, though, is not the physical pain but the emotional pain. The surgery becomes a violation of Pansy's body as the surgeon probes deeper and causes more pain. The picture of modern medicine is that of impersonal doctors with a veneer of bedside manner, but who see patients as a problem to be solved. This is a story, along with Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Illyich (reviewed previously) that all doctors and medical students should read.

Rating: 8 /10

The reader: Miette has a lovely velvet voice. She has an accent that I just love, with beautiful round vowels. Her phrasing is a bit unconventional at times and she repeats a line at least once, but these imperfections serve to make her reading less professional and more personal. Her reading starts with a little personal anecdote about round food which I initially mistook for the story. The recording cuts off with about 10 minutes to go. None of the story is lost, but there's a considerable bit of silence at the end.

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