John R. Guthrie

15 posts
John R. Guthrie is a former Marine infantry rifleman. He later studied medicine and became the commanding officer of a U.S. Navy Reserve Shock Surgical Group. He practiced family medicine in the Smoky Mountain foothills of Appalachia. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction has been published widely. He is the editor and publisher of the monthly webzine "The Chickasaw Plum: Politics and the Arts Online."

Book Review: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

The story is set in the spring of 1969 in the northwest corner of the country then known as South Vietnam. It revolves around a mountain named Matterhorn, a 5,000 plus foot peak so steep in some areas that ropes are required to scale it. The Marines face other obstacles also. At night it is so cold and wet that hypothermia is a problem. Much of the terrain is carpeted with leech-infested triple canopy rain forest, its undergrowth so thick as to require slashing through with machetes.

Book Review: The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer

Garrity is an archetype, an ill-understood and imperiled hero who after overcoming every obstacle, exits hand-in-hand with the alluring heroine. It is part of the fun for our heroes to be bigger, somehow, than life, and for villains to be so brilliantly inventive and evil as to rival Satan himself. This fictional world of good and bad provides the reader with a comforting temporary escape from the real world with all its pesky shades of gray.

Small Wars by Sadie Jones

The conflict becomes a war in which, “…there was no truth. It was a nothing, laughable Mickey Mouse conflict; it was a sinister time of terror and repression. The British were misguided and ignorant; the Cypriots were lethargic and foolish. The Cypriots loved the British; the Cypriots hated the British. The British were torturers; the British were decent and honourable. EOKA were terrorists; EOKA were heroes.”

The Great Dinosaur Discoveries by Darren Naish

Naish states that “most dinosaur books look at current views on dinosaurs and briefly recap the history of some key finds…. This book is specifically focused on changing ideas about the evolution and appearance of dinosaurs and the important discoveries that brought about these changes.” With its 200 or so color photos with captions, maps, tables, a taxonomic chart (dinosaur family tree), sidebars and accessible text, Naish’s book generally accomplishes this in an elegant and intriguing manner.

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins

The unit of measure is a “Darwin,” so named by famed geneticist J. B. S. Haldane. One of the architects of modern Darwinism, he served with great courage in the Scottish Blackwatch Regiment during World War I, then continued his research. At that time, there were some 350,000 known species of beetles. When Haldane was asked by a theologian what he learned of the nature of God from his study of science, he replied, “That He has an inordinate fondness for beetles.”

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid

In this great country, for all its goodness, and for all the excellence of the medical care available to the more fortunate, Reid states that 20,000 American citizens die each year due to lack of health insurance and health care. (A more recently released Harvard study indicates more than twice that many.) The notion we have something to learn from other industrialized, wealthy societies often meets with considerable resistance, not because of the oft touted bugaboo of “socialized medicine,“ but simply because the ideas involved are foreign.

From Galileo to Gell-Mann: The Wonder That Inspired The Greatest Scientists of All Time in Their Own Words

Duccio Machetto opines in the book’s introduction that, “Today science and theology are more aware of the specific nature of their methods, and take care to avoid ‘incursions’ into what is clearly the field of the other.” Apparently, young earth creationists are not a factor in Italy. The Holy See, however, does feel obliged to weigh in on scientific endeavor from time-to-time, this on a range of issues from Alzheimer’s research using fetal tissue to new and improved techniques of in vitro fertilization. Conversely, scientists such as Richard Dawkins write bestsellers insisting that religion is disproved by science.

Knife Song Korea by Richard Selzer

On arriving at his small and isolated army base in Korea, Sloane is met by Larry Olsen, the army physician he is replacing. Olsen speaks to him as follows; “There’s no roof that doesn’t leak. The rats are fearless. Flies rule the country. Everybody steals. Orphans, refugees everywhere. They’re coming down from the north. There’s no equipment to speak of. There’s no sterilizer. And the dirt, the vermin….It’s yours now.”

Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman

This continued fighting retreat for allied forces persisted for the four bloody months from December 1941 to April of 1942. In an astounding oversight, General MacArthur, by then en route to Corregidor, disregarded the logistical requirements of his retreating army. He left behind, in one example, 450 million bushels of wheat in a single warehouse despite his junior offices protestations. His starving soldiers ended up eating carabou—until all carabou were gone—then snakes, lizards, crows, whatever. The allied forces, lacking resupply and experience, were pushed back repeatedly, finally making their last stand on the tip of Bataan at the town of Mariveles.

Bracing For Armageddon? by William R. Clark

Asahara amassed hundreds of million dollars and sent agents to far-flung destinations to ferret out information and materials for use in bioweapons. In 1995, he sought to hasten the apocalypse and seize earthly power by spreading an unlikely sacrament, sarin gas, in the Tokyo subway system. This event killed twelve people outright and injured another thousand or more, many of them seriously. The group had carried out a previous gassing, a sort of practice run for the Tokyo event, in the outlying town of Matsumoto. Seven died.

The Best American Science Writing 2007

Jonathon Keats’s article from Popular Science recounts the work of the guru of artificial intelligence, John Koza, an adjunct professor at Stanford University. He developed a system of linked computers that he calls an “invention machine.” The machine has been awarded a United States Patent (!), the “first intellectual property protections ever granted to a nonhuman designer.”

The Common Secret by Susan Wicklund

Her home was invaded in her absence. Both muddy boot prints and anti-abortion pamphlets were left behind. Her driveway was barricaded with barrels of concrete to keep her from going to work. Threatening phone calls and letters arrived regularly. Her daughter’s school was invaded and the child harassed to tears. She endured the death of colleagues who were gunned down by anti-abortion zealots. On occasion local authorities were indifferent to her plight, so an armored vest and a .38 caliber revolver became part of her clinic attire.

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram

Whether amputating a shrapnel-torn limb or performing an emergency appendectomy, Dr. Tram proved to be remarkably adept. The diary entry for 8 April, 1968 reads, “Operated on one case of appendicitis without adequate anesthesia. I had only a few meager vials of Novocain to give the soldier, but he never groaned once during the entire procedure. He just kept smiling, to encourage me.”