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PHYSICAL by James McManus


An American Checkup

by James McManus

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 2006
ISBN: 0-374-23202-4
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

An assignment from Harper’s to undergo, and report back on, the Mayo Clinic’s three-day “executive checkup” morphs into true confessions, political diatribes and sundry other tidbits.

In his 50s, McManus (Positively Fifth Street, 2003, etc.) is overweight, his triglycerides are high, martinis and wine are a daily routine, he likes the occasional cigarette and his family has a history of heart disease. Can he change his ways? The soul-searching and personal history that follow are delivered with a combination of emotion and self-deprecating humor. Some readers may not care to get a detailed account of the author’s uncertainties about having a vasectomy. Some might find it tasteless that he speculates about whether his adored second wife might have slept with the pediatric ophthalmologist who saved their young daughter’s vision after she was poked in the eye at a birthday party. But by the end of the book, McManus is back on track in his discussions of the inequities of healthcare in America, the failings of the FDA and the duplicitous, anti-science policies of the Bush administration, particularly with regard to stem-cell research.

Good reporting would have produced a better book, had been accompanied by more self-restraint.