Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A few thoughts on anatomy

In my last post providing an overview of med school and classes and such, I promised a separate post just for anatomy because I like it so much. So here we go.

Anatomy more or less dominates our first block of classes. We have three lectures a week, each followed by a marathon session in the dissection lab. There are four students per body, meaning there is plenty of work cut out for everyone. A dedicated brigade of professors (some of whom are reportedly renowned experts in their fields) and TAs roams around to provide assistance to floundering groups or to regale the idle ones with grand stories about exciting discoveries in the field of anatomy. The lab is akin to a bazaar, full of boisterousness and healthy chaos.

Tomas Transtromer and his exciting poetry

Although I like poetry, I don't dabble in it (or feel as confident about) like I do in literature. Good poetry is harder to find than good fiction because every person with the slightest bit of angst and the teeniest degree of creativity jumps recklessly into the realm of the verse. Whereas bad fiction merely annoys, bad poetry provokes. I feel like hurling the book against the wall whenever I encounter a bad poem. With bad fiction, I merely shrug, grit my teeth a little bit and put the book away.

Poetry is a medium that achieves (or at least aims to achieve) a lot more with the very few. Whenever you try to express yourself among the confines of meter and rhyme while trying to construct a lyrical backbone (not that any of these are needed for poetry - they just happen to be the most common features), you run the risk of sounding either too shallow or just plain shitty.

Fiction offers the comfortable cushion of unlimited words and offers complete freedom. The whole wide green pastures are yours. The cushion of words masks mediocre fiction much more easily, and that is why I don't feel as much pain while reading bad fiction.

So it is natural that I get terribly excited when I meet a particularly good piece of poetry. Case in point: Mr. Tomas Transtromer, the newly minted Nobel laureate in literature.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The humdrum and the minutiae

We've been in school for one and a half months now, and have settled into a good routine involving classes, social events and studying. Our school year is divided into three blocks and we are currently in the middle of our first block. Second block starts after Christmas break and third block after spring break. Pretty much like the quarter system, except first block is longer by more than a month (instead of starting late September, like most quarter system schools do, we started mid August).

First block consists of the following five classes: Anatomy, Histology, Physiology, Molecular Foundations of Medicine and Practice of Medicine.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Boast of quietness

Since I have so much free time on my hands these days, I spend it on the treadmill. When I am not wasting my time watching Anthony Bourdain spout gibberish ("This bread is France and France is bread") on the gym TVs, I listed to audiobooks while running.

One of the recent books I was (and still am) listening to is Kiran Desai's Inheritance of Loss. It won a Booker prize and Desai has some pedigree - her mother Anita Desai is a famous novelist - so I decided to check it out. The book is meant to represent class struggle and the aspirations of the poor, both through the perspective of a retired judge clashing with local goons in India and an illegal immigrant trying to make it big in America.

Although the book has been a bit overly melodramatic and slightly clunky so far, a verse in the preface struck me deeply. I was running along when the narrator began speaking the following lines:

My homeland is the rythym of a guitar, a few portraits, an old sword,
the willow grove's visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous multitude.
They are indispensible, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away
he doesn't expect to arrive.
I was so impressed by the tenderness and the heaviness of these words that I nearly fell off the treadmill (no joke). I was truly impressed by Desai's writing (And this is only the preface! Lots more to come! I thought to myself), when the narrator finished reading and intoned, "Jorge Luis Borges."

I felt like smacking my head. Of course. Desai is good, but definitely not that good.