Why medicine is good training for writing fiction

What a conspicuous omission by not mentioning Percy in this article. Here is an extract from my forthcoming paper.

With Percy’s medical training echoing in the deep background, he took the view that the novelist is a diagnostician, “a literary clinician” so to speak, identifying “the particular [cultural] lesion of the age.” Percy extends the analogy by going on to say that “the artist’s work in such times is surely not that of the pathologist whose subject matter is a corpse and whose question is not ‘What is wrong?’ but ‘What did the patient die of?’” (Percy 1991, 206). My colleague, David Hardwick, has repeatedly expressed the view that pathology is the Natural Science of Medicine. And perhaps it really was the pathologist’s perspective that Percy distinctively carried though to make him the novelist that be became (Nash 2013b; Ahuja 2013). As Percy himself colorfully put it, pathology was “the beautiful theatre of disease” (Tolson 1992, 148). Bioethicist Carl Elliott remarks that Percy’s:

novels often portray medicine as a profession in decline, sold out to greedy capitalists and narrow scientists. The most appealing doctors in the novels are often burned-out and dispirited; the worst of them are quacks or crooks. . . . Yet Percy’s experience as a doctor and a patient shows through in more subtle ways, and perhaps ultimately more important ones. It shows through in the doctorly way that Percy writes, for example-the wry, clinical detachment with which he describes his characters and the circumstances in which they find themselves. Percy’s style is reminiscent of the way doctors often describe their patients: sometimes with affection, occasionally with condescension, often with humor-but always with an eye toward diagnosing their particular pathology. Percy himself described it as “the stance of a diagnostician” (Elliott and Lantos, 1999, 4-5).

Walker Percy at the Bogue Falaya River in Covington, LA