Monday, October 09, 2006


This year, as last, I made time this past weekend to attend the Friends of Multnomah County Library fall book sale, held as before in a soulless building on NE Sandy and Burnside here in Portland. As last year, I waited until Sunday, hoping that all the books would be gone by then and I and my pocketbook would have nothing to fear from a little browsing.

Well, I wound up seeing a little gem there, and its title could be a subheading for this post: How It Happened, by our own former faculty member Dr. A.G. Bettman, sat among the other tomes categorized as "Old Books" by sale organizers.

Dr. Bettman's name jumped out at me instantly, since we have some of his papers here in the Archives (Archives 2001-013). He also donated numerous items to the Medical Museum Collection, some of which can be seen in the Digital Resources Library by doing a word search on "bettman."

This slim volume, published by F.A. Davis Co. in 1931, is (according to the laid-in blurb) "a satirical anthology of 100 one-minute thought-provoking stories, including soliloquies, reflections, narratives, and philosophy." Each of the hundred is titled with a name. The prefatory piece reads:

From the life / of every individual
A useful lesson / may be learned
If we but know / the hidden facts.
That the names / heading these pages
Are assumed / is immaterial;
The real names / may be had
By consulting / any Doctor of Medicine.
When this is done / it will be found
That no two lists / are alike,
Yet every list / is correct.

The pieces are indeed satirical, some of them rather harshly so to the ear of a 20th-century patient--but I suppose patients' stories of doctors are often similarly unjust. Bettman must have spared his friends from scrutiny because he happily signed this copy over to Mrs. W.P. Galen "with kindest regards and best wishes." On the other hand, perhaps he hoped she would recognize herself on the pages within!

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