Vincent Lam, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, 2005.
Yes, it was after I knew it was a Giller nominee, and even the winner, that I added this book to my to-read list. I fell in love with it. The stories are short, and sharp. Lam writes with a voice that is at once detached and at the same time deeply caring for his characters. I really am starting to think that I have a problem with collections of linked stories; they’re a form I find hard to resist.
I think that what makes this collection so inviting is the way that the characters draw the reader into their excitements and their challenges. Reading the stories that centre on Fitz, I had a very deep sense of who he is and what motivates him, his passion for medicine, and his growing problems with what I would term accidie. Chen’s passion for medicine is accented with his desire to avoid conflict and his need to have others be happy—and the limits of that need, tinged with impatience. As I floated through the medical world of these doctors—but especially these two central characters—they felt alive to me, revealed through their actions because of the careful crafting of the stories themselves, rather than merely being told who they are and what motivates them.
Lam’s book is well worth a careful read or two. It’s also enough to convince me that I’d love to teach a class on Canadian linked story-cycles…