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How Abraham Verghese writes

The crowd that packed the sweltering geology lecture hall last night came to hear the wisdom and word-craft of Stanford physician and bestselling writer Abraham Verghese, MD.

The conversation touched on all of Verghese's work, including the memoirs The Tennis Partner and My Own Country, and his most recent novel, Cutting for Stone. Verghese spoke as a part of the long-running How I Write series, free public author interviews offered once a quarter and hosted by author and Stanford lecturer Hilton Obenzinger, PhD.

Some choice quotes, featured on the Stanford School of Medicine's live Twitter feed from the event:

  • "I see myself entirely as a physician. I don't wear two hats, doctor and writer, like some people think."
  • On life in India, Ethiopia, Tennessee, and Texas: “There [are] advantages to the writer to be an exile, to feel like you don't belong.”
  • "I think an important ritual takes place when interacting with a patient - it can mark a departure, a transformation. One individual comes to another, says things they wouldn't tell anyone, disrobes, and allows touch."
  • "It is a great privilege to witness the compressed lives of the dying. They can't postpone the search for the meaning to life. The dying ask 'where does meaning reside?' Most find relationships - love of parents, children, friends - most important."

Verghese, who will be the Stanford Summit@Medicine2.0 opening keynote speaker in Sept., leaves on a book tour tomorrow. You can download a free recording of his How I Write talk through Stanford's iTunesU offerings in a few weeks.

Previously: Hands on: Abraham Verghese teaches bedside skills, Abraham Verghese at Work: A New York Times profile, How a battle with Napoleon helped Abraham Verghese write his novel and Physicians turn to books to better understand patients, selves

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