Novel Endearment

PhysicianThe Physician by Noah Gordon.

Finished it two nights ago, dear worst-reader. Long has this book been on my to-read list. Long have various acquaintances (in Eurowasteland) inquired about my consumption of it. Short was the task to get thru it. Glad to finally hack it off my to-read list. Now the struggle to figure out which book is next. Nomatter.

Have been thinking about The Physician ever since I closed the e-book. In fact, been thinking about it more than others I’ve finished. Why? Because I know, unlike other books that make me think, this one will pass. So I better think about it asap. For it will move beyond my needs because, well, upon completion, I could not understand why it sold millions upon millions of copies–mostly to Europe, especially to Germany. But then I realized that this is a unique piece of work that is destined to appeal to a certain group of people. More on that in a sec.

According to this article, Der Medicus (German title) sold over six million copies, and that was long after its publication in 1986. And so I ask: What makes this book such a grand bestseller? The aforementioned article even suggest that it is a “Grishamesque” novel. Oooops. Now don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though while I was reading it I also skipped passage after passage. But that’s neither here nor there. Alone the research put into this book makes it naturally rise well above the denunciation of being Grishamesque. In more contemporary terms, this book is in the stratosphere above DanBrownesque. But. It is not at the level of UmbertoEcoesque! Still. For moi. Being compared to Eco is more appropriate. But I digress

As mentioned, I skipped passages in this book. Mr. Gordon did a fine job putting it together but there were moments where I got lost because his narration bored me. I also couldn’t get over how some of the story offered gears but those gears didn’t mesh well. For example. I didn’t buy the “It’s hard to be a Jew” thing. Also, the beating Cole took upon entering Ispahan didn’t match the lack of fear and the struggle to actually get there. And then there’s the circumcision thing. I just didn’t see the point of all that, especially when Cole was being questioned upon his arrival and subsequent trouble in London. But I’m nitpicking. And. As usual. I’m jealous because I know I can’t write a novel better. And so.

I think the reason this book was/is so popular–among Eurowastelanders and not so popular in the US–is because it is endearing. It also appeals to a cultivated mind. This book didn’t do well in the US because, unlike John Grisham or Dan Brown, it actually attempts to portray a world where there are more important things than the vulgar and the obvious. The way Gordon portrays Rob Cole from birth to manhood is counter to the cowboy, winner-take-all mindset of America and it’s outdated way of life. Rob Cole is indeed a real man and his faults are as endearing as his strengths. Very European, indeed. Rob Cole is the anti-cowboy created by an American author and put into a story that lusts after history and knowledge–and that story has to be put outside of America. I guess. Or something like that.

Great read.

Rant on.

-Tommi