Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them

December 2, 2020
Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them

Product DescriptionAn American half-dollar. A beaded crucifix. Tooth roots shapedlike a tiny pair of pants. A padlock. Scads of peanut kernels andscores of safety pins. A metallic letter Z. A toy goat and tinsteering wheel. A Perfect Attendance Pin.One of the most popular attractions in Philadelphia'sworld-famous Mütter Museum is the Chevalier Jackson Foreign BodyCollection: a beguiling set of drawers filled with thousands ofitems that had been swallowed or inhaled, then extractednonsurgically by a pioneering laryngologist using rigid instrumentsof his own design. How do people's mouths, lungs, and stomachs endup filled with inedible things, and what do they become oncearranged in Jackson's aura-laden cabinet? What drove Dr. ChevalierJackson's peculiar obsession not only with removing foreign bodiesfrom people's upper torsos but also with saving and cataloging theitems that he retrieved?Animating the space between interest and terror, curiosity anddread, award-winning author Mary Cappello explores what seemsbeyond understanding: the physiology of the human swallow, and thepoignant and baffling psychology that compels people to ingestnon-nutritive things. On a quest to restore the narratives thathaunt Jackson's uncanny collection, she discovers that all thingsare secretly edible. Combining original research with a sympatheticand evocative sensibility, Cappello uncovers a history of racismand violence, of forced ingestion and "hysteria," of class andpoverty that left children to bank their family's last quarters intheir mouths. Here, the seemingly disparate but equally marvelousworlds of the circus and the medical amphitheater meet incharacters ranging from sword swallowers and women who lunched onhardware to the sensitive, bullied boy who grew up to be the fatherof endoscopy.Advance Praise"Swallow is a surprising and original work. It is biography onthe slant, a meditation that transcends boundaries and genres,written with scholarship, humor, and panache. I urge you to takethis journey." —Ricky Jay"I was astonished and delighted—grabbed by the throat, indeed—bythis most remarkable book, which took me down a thousand little redlanes, and laid out in excruciating and fascinating detail allthose myriad of items—corks to safety pins to draughts of lye andthree-foot swords—that have managed to pass down there too. It is awonderful and bizarre book: gorge yourself on it, and gulp." —SimonWinchester, author of Atlantic: The Biography of an Ocean"Swallow is a wonderful, intriguing book, a fascinating glimpseinto a true medical pioneer and a life's work. Mary Cappello delvesinto what it means to ingest things we weren't meant to eat, andhow the line between our bodies and foreign bodies can sometimesblur. Every object tells a story, and the stories here aremarvelous." —Colin Dickey, author of Crankiolepty: Grave Robbingand the Search for GeniusAbout the AuthorMary Cappello's three previous books of literary nonfiction areAwkward, a Los Angeles Times bestseller; Called Back, a criticalmemoir on cancer that won a ForeWord Book of the Year Award and anIndependent Publisher Book Award; and the memoir Night Bloom. Arecipient of the Bechtel Prize for Educating the Imagination fromTeachers and Writers Collaborative and the Dorothea Lange–PaulTaylor Prize from Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies,she is a former Fulbright lecturer at the Gorky Literary Institute(Moscow) and currently a professor of English and creative writingat the University of Rhode Island. She lives in...