From the physician/author of The Woods Hole Cantata, 20 more inquisitive, often forced incursions into the borderland between medicine and nature, humanity, and society. Weissmann explores a wide variety of topics in these essays, most of which link a medical question or problem with a nonmedical one (in the title piece, for example, a discussion of Columbus' last voyage to the Indies leads to a diagnosis of the ailment--Reiter's syndrome--afflicting his final years, leading in turn to a discussion of his heroism). But so wide is the range of Weissmann's subjects, and often so tenuous are his linkages, that many of his essays read like complex examples of associative thinking only, with the medical interest merely an excuse for ruminations on whatever catches his fancy. No problem with this, if Weissmann regularly wrote with ingenuity, or at least amusingly, as in his ""Tests Prove It: Medicine in Vogue,"" a riotous look at the medical jargon bandied about in Vogue magazine advertisements. But as often as not his pieces are fatuous (a discussion of diet leading to an uninspired look at nouvelle cuisine): strident (an self-righteous essay objecting to the supposed contemporary ""Fear of Science,"" containing misleading comments about animal activists); sophomoric (three playlets with bombastic characters bludgeoning each other with points as subtle as sledgehammers), or old-hat/obvious (a comparison between methods of clinical diagnosis and the deductive techniques of Sherlock Holmes). Like a marksman discharging a shotgun at 10 paces, Weissmann, an accomplished stylist who's willing to take chances, of necessity hits the bull's-eye once in a while. But he misses far too often to satisfy--or excuse--in this indulgent, haphazard collection.