Having been touched by cancer too often in the past couple years, I recently picked up Siddhartha Mukherjee’s remarkable Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The book is a tour de force and must reading for anyone who actually wants to read about cancer (admittedly not everyone). Mukherjee is a highly literate and sensitive writer and does justice to a an extremely difficult topic.
In another realm of life, in preparation to teach Christian Anthropology, I have recently done some reading about angels and demons, those immaterial personal intelligences affirmed in Christian tradition but inevitably misunderstood and misrepresented in popular culture. Mukherjee makes no religious claims in his book, but the following passage (from p. 39) seems to me evidence of a spiritually sensitive soul. Mukherjee has described a demon much more accurately, almost certainly without knowing it, than any non-theological source I have yet encountered:
In writing this book, I started off by imagining my project as a “history” of cancer. But it felt, inescapably, as if I were writing not about something but about someone. My subject daily morphed into something that resembled an individual – an enigmatic, if somewhat deranged, image in a mirror. This was not so much a medical history of an illness, but something more personal, more visceral: its biography.
Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of three (so far) and husband of one.