Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A Fresh Rupture

Who should I run into in the library today but my smart ex-student? And we happened to notice a little booklet wedged between heftier volumes in the medical section, and we dislodged it and had a nice time leafing through it. It is called PRIMITIVE PHYSIC. It's a reprint of the edition published in 1755, and it seems you can cure anything with cold water, an onion, or the judicious application of electricity. Notes the preface, the 1755 edition was the first to mention electricity. For example, to cure deafness, "Be electrified thro' the ear." Toothache? "Be electrified through the tooth." ("Through" - not "thro'" - that time for some reason.) Not until I got it home did I realize it was written by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, isn't that what he did? Even the diseases sound elegant: "Costiveness" - "Noise in the Ears" - "The King's Evil" - "Convulsions in the Bowels of Children" - "A Tickling Cough" - "Clouds flying before the Eyes" - "The Green Sickness" - "The Whites" - "A Chronical Head-ach" - "For one seemingly kill'd with Lightning" - "The Inward Piles" - "The Quinsy" - "A Fresh Rupture" (which will be the title of my next novel) - "A Windy Rupture" (the sequel, decided my smart ex-student) - "Pearl in the Eye" - "An old stubborn pain in the Back" - you get it! I love that the first step for curing "A Raging Fit" is to "Beat Onions into a pulp." Here's a measurement you get a lot (when they're telling you how much butter or cream of tartar to apply, for example): "the bigness of a Nutmeg." That could be a classy title for a classy novel, too, the kind of classy novel classy people love to read: THE BIGNESS OF A NUTMEG. If I wrote a novel called THE BIGNESS OF A NUTMEG, everyone would love me. Maybe it can be my follow-up to the moving and controversial A FRESH RUPTURE. Well, I haven't even told you any of the good stuff yet. Like, for "The Apoplexy" (from which I often suffer) "Rub the head, feet, and hands strongly, and let two strong men carry the patient upright, backwards and forwards about the room." Raisins come into it a lot, too, reminding me of those hucksters McNeil found on the "internet," curing arthritis - wasn't it? - with gin and raisins. Oh, we're just getting started. Thanks, John Wesley!