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Dawn Garisch’s Eloquent Body reviewed in SA Medical Journal and Mantis

Eloquent Body has had reviews in two places that we don’t often see featured on Bookslive. The first one below is by Peter Folb, and appears in the SA Medical Journal. The second one comes from Mantis, the journal of the Southern African Association of Jungian Analysts. Both extremely prestigious journals to be reviewed in and we are doubly pleased as the reviews are engaged and from peers, in addition each one praises the book in different ways. So if you haven’t picked up a copy of Eloquent Body yet, don’t waste anymore time.

REVIEW: ELOQUENT BODY by DAWN GARISCH. Reviewer: Peter Folb Date of Review: 7 September 2012

There is a creative artist within every person and everyone has something unique to explore. Few realise and actualise it; many have no time or interest, or are overcome with the apprehension of self-revelation. It may be that doctors and scientists have a special opportunity or talent for creative art, be it music, poetry, writing or the fine arts, given their privileged insights into the human condition and the scientific method. One thinks here of Chekhov, Marie Curie, Borodin, Frida Kahlo, William Carlos Williams, AJ Cronin, Conan Doyle, Somerset Maugham, Alexander Doblin, Keats, and Kathe Kollwitz. Not uncommonly, patients, too, seek refuge in the creative arts.

In “Eloquent Body” Dawn Garisch examines her own creativity in a frank and carefully researched semi-autobiographical new book. She is medical practitioner, novelist, poet, walker, mother and patient herself. She sees herself as a doctor who writes, wanting to become a writer who doctors. Her conflict is not resolved. She is an accomplished writer and her life is enriched by doctoring. She draws widely on her experience with patients – their fortitude, frailties, obstinacy and quirks. She is influenced by Jung. It is as a doctor that she explores, confronts and embraces issues of truth, fear, doubt, service and trust in the creative process. She believes in the innate self-healing capacity of the body and in the part that the arts can play in achieving that. She has discovered that it is important to relinquish the illusion of control. She maintains that in completing her book the two streams of her life converge. One is not convinced that she has at last found repose, and quite possibly that is a good thing – for her, for us her readers and, not least, for her patients.

Creative art is therapeutic, if not necessarily curative, for patient and for health practitioner alike. Dawn Garisch knows. It’s there, clearly, in her book and she has written it modestly and with courage.

Peter Folb

Review of Eloquent Body by Dawn Garisch.
By Prof. Steve Reid

Dawn Garisch describes herself as a “doctor and a writer”, having transitioned “from a doctor who writes into a writer who doctors”, but admits that she has not entirely resolved the split between the two. This scenario may be more common than we think, as health professionals are systematically separated from the creative and expressive parts of themselves in order to conform to the demands of Western medicine. In modern healthcare, the arts and the humanities are not easy companions of the biomedical sciences.

Dividing her time almost equally then between writing and doctoring, she brings together in Eloquent Body a series of provocative, personal reflections on health and illness, and what it means to be fully human. If our bodies are indeed eloquent, telling us through episodes of illness things that we need to know, then we should pay more attention to them and to ourselves. But most often we do not, and bear the consequences in our health, or lack of it.
In parallel with the ideas presented, Dawn tells the story of her own journey of integration, her experience of chronic illness, and her urge to write and create as a means of pursuing her true vocation. The book includes a delightful passage in which she describes a journey into the South Atlantic Ocean as a ship’s doctor, including a number of intriguing reflections on the situation and the characters she finds herself with. As an almost whimsical interlude, I enjoyed the reality of this section as a contrast to the profound ideas in the rest of the book.

The clear notion comes through repeatedly that we are unnaturally divided into biological and spiritual parts that need to be integrated in order to become whole human beings. And this can be done through disciplined attention to our bodies and inner voices. Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul carried a similar theme, suggesting a need to give priority to the unconscious processes and movements that actually determine our lives. However, Garisch gives special emphasis to the arts as a means of transformation and integration. As a poet, a writer and a dancer herself, she sees the medical environment as the raw material for her art, as opposed to using the arts as salvage therapy to cope with the demands of medical practice, as many do. This tension of identity as author and doctor, combined with a deep capacity for analysis and insight, and a very accessible style, make the book a fascinating encounter with original ideas.

This review was published in Mantis, the journal of the Southern African Association of Jungian Analysts

Eloquent Body

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