Issue #215: Case Studies by Charles Bock

215.coverA few years ago, two close family members of mine were diagnosed with cancer. I’d lost other relatives, friends, and co-workers  to the disease before, but this was the first time I was dealing with the day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour intricacies of care-taking, surgeries, treatment side-effects, hospital visits, and health insurance. The anxiety, strangeness, intimacy, love, helplessness, humanity, and at times, God-help me, dark humor of that experience came rushing back as I read Charles Bock’s “Case Studies.” Set as a series of fictional medical histories of patients, each record moves quickly from the hard facts of diagnosis to the existential questions of healing, building a mosaic of the daily, quiet heroism of patients and their caregivers, while at the same time condemning the bureaucracy of our current health care system. I encourage everyone to read Charles’s Q&A with us as a companion piece to this extraordinary story, where he talks about his own experience caring for his late wife Diana, his decision to explore this subject matter via fiction instead of memoir, and how “Case Studies” fits into the larger narrative of his highly anticipated forthcoming novel, Alice & Oliver. To steal a phrase from Charles—dealing with cancer sucks rocks. But “Case Studies” is more than just a cancer story. It asks: How do we face our daily lives with dignity and hope when our bodies begin to fail us? Every one of us will have to answer that question someday. But we don’t have to do it alone. One of the magical things about fiction is how it creates a mirror of interior worlds. Moments of recognition. When you find one of them on the page, you feel it in your bones. Yes, you think. Exactly. That is exactly how it feels. And you know that you have found a fellow traveler. In these brief medical histories, “Case Studies” introduces us to six such fellow travelers as they navigate the treacherous path of illness, exploring the failures, sorrows, hopes, and mysteries of the human experience.

2 thoughts on “Issue #215: Case Studies by Charles Bock

  1. Hmmm. Fiction, surely, and beautifully written, but not what I think of as a story. Limited character development, no dialog, more of a series of vignettes than a story. Nevertheless, deeply humane, highly empathetic, and touching.

  2. This piece makes my subscription to One Story worthwhile, the best so far. I don’t quite know why this assemblage of vignettes is so powerful…I hesitate to analyze and don’t want to. One thing is the absence of literary pretension…

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