Book: Various Antidotes

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Various Antidotes: Stories

Author: Joanna Scott
Publisher: Back Bay Books

In her first collection of short stories, Various Antidotes, Scott culls from the annals of science and medicine real and imaginary figures whose peculiar obsessions she transmutes with effortless alchemy into the stuff of art. In one story she writes of van Leeuwenhoek, the mad lens-grinder of Delft, whose early microscope designs allowed him to see life in a drop of water and for whom “there was hardly a difference between discovering life and creating it.” In another she offers an account of the origin of the verb burke, after William Burke, who was hanged in Edinburgh in 1829 for murdering victims by suffocation and selling them as cadavers to a professor of anatomy. She reacquaints us with Dorothea Dix, samaritan of the criminally insane, and introduces us to, among others, Charlotte Corday, who mortally stabbed French physician and revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat while he was taking his bath.

Each story is a perfectly wrought gem, and each offers ample evidence that Scott, like Hawthorne’s Owen Warland, is truly an “artist of the beautiful.”

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