Like many, I look forward every year to the publication of the Best American volumes; my favorite is the short fiction one, but over the years, I’ve picked up volumes in each category and always found something worthwhile, something beautifully written. So when I saw The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009 on sale for $5 at my grocery store, I snapped it up and brought it home, intending to read it over a leisurely lunch.
I flipped first to “The Itch,” an essay by renowned doctor and writer Atul Gawande, and was engrossed almost immediately. However, by the end, I was second-guessing my decision to read it over lunch. I think a turning point must have been the description of the woman who itched through her scalp into her skull until brain fluid was leaking out. Ahem.
Next, I tried “Contagious Cancer,” a piece by David Quammen about Tasmanian devils and what scientists have learned about cancer by observing them. At least, I think that’s what it’s about; I haven’t yet made it past the page where a scientist mentioned tumors on a Tasmanian devil’s face that were “crumbly, like feta cheese” when excised. Did I mention I was eating pizza at the time?
So in the future, while I look forward to finishing the other essays, I won’t be doing it while eating. Or looking at food, or being anywhere near it.
- Has an infectious cancer doomed Tasmanian devils to extinction? (scientificamerican.com)