Dr. Mütter’s MarvelsA True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern MedicineOn-Sale: September 8, 2015 :: Penguin Books/Avery :: PaperbackBy Cristin O’Keefe AptowiczIn the bestselling book DR. MÜTTER’S MARVELS: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine (Penguin Books/Avery, September 8, 2015, Trade Paperback), Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz explores the previously untold life story of the man with the famous name: a young, handsome and ambitiously brilliant surgeon whose talents in the operating room and lectures halls were unrivaled in his lifetime. The deluxe eBook edition of DR. MÜTTER’S MARVELS includes over one hour of audio in which author Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz shares facts, stories and insights about Dr. Mütter and his contemporaries that she discovered in her research but didn’t make it into the printed book.
Through Mütter’s humanist eyes, we are given a front row seat to the evolution of American medicine: from bleedings and leechings to the standardization of medical schools; from the discovery of anesthesia to his community’s frustrating resistance to washing hands and sterilizing tools; from the unimaginable medical cases provoked by the rise of industrialism, to the challenges and innovations birthed as the country marched toward the Civil War.Although he only lived for 47 years, Mütter’s impact on medicine is still felt, and his legacy lives on with his enormously popular namesake museum. And now, with DR. MÜTTER’S MARVELS, his strange, inspiring and untold story can finally be shared.About the AuthorCristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is a New York Times bestselling nonfiction writer and poet. She is the author of six books of poetry (including Dear Future Boyfriend, Hot Teen Slut, Working Class Represent, Oh, Terrible Youth andEverything is Every Thing) as well as the nonfiction books, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which made 7 National “Best Books of 2014” lists (including Amazon, The Onion’s AV Club, NPR’s Science Fridays and the UK newspaper The Guardian, among others) and Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and take its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.”
On the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) podcast Art Works, host Josephine Reed introduced Cristin as being “something of a legend in NYC’s slam poetry scene.” Cristin’s most recent awards include the ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residency at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (2011) and the Amy Clampitt Residency (2013). Her sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, was released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013, and would go on to win the Writers’ League of Texas Book of the Year Award for Poetry (2013-2014). Her second book of nonfiction, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, was released by Gotham Books (Penguin) in Fall 2014, debuted at #7 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Books about Health, and stayed on the list for three months. On September 8, 2015, Penguin Books/Avery will publish the Trade Paperback edition.BESTSELLING ACCOLADES: Dr. Mütter’s Marvels“Bestselling in Health” by New York Times (#, # , # )“Best Science Books of 2014” by Amazon.com, NPR’s Science , Library Journal, and The Guardian“Best Books of 2014” by The Onion’s AV Club“Best Adult Books for Teens 2014” by School Library Journal“Best Books of the Year” by New Jersey’s Asbury Park PressPraise for DR. MÜTTER’S MARVELS“[Aptowicz’s] poetic eye is exactly what makes Dr. Mütter's Marvels a marvel itself….With clinical precision, Aptowicz lays bare the facts of Mütter's colorful, tumultuous life….For a book so immersed in the intimate perspective of its subject, it also brings a broad perspective about everything from the development of modern medicine to women's issues of the 19th century, not to mention how norms of beauty and the definitions of monstrosity have inspired and held us back over the centuries. With Dr. Mütter's Marvels, Aptowicz keeps a steady hand on her historical scalpel, even as she wields it with a winning flourish.”—NPR Books
“Ms. Aptowicz rescues Mütter the man from undeserved obscurity, recreating his short life and hard times with wit, energy and gusto. Her book, like the Mütter Museum, is a reminder that the course of human suffering and the progress of medical science are often messy, complex and stranger than can be imagined.”—Wall Street Journal“As a huge fan of the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, I was excited to get my hands on this rich biography of the real doctor, Thomas Mütter, a 19th-century surgeon who treated people with misunderstood conditions and amassed a fascinating collection of medical oddities.”—USA Today“Dr. Mütter’s Marvels is nonfiction narrative at its best….Aptowicz is refreshingly careful with her language, keeping the narrative speculation to a minimum, painting most of her scenery with the weight of her research. She revels in the details, but largely lets the reader draw their own conclusions. The result is an approachable history of a man and of a time period that does exactly what narrative non-fiction should do: answers the questions the reader never realized they had.”—The Onion’s A.V. Club“With a flair for narrative, and having researched extensively, Aptowicz chronicles the ascent of Mütter’s career and his numerous surgical breakthroughs… Aptowicz’s prose works the same way Mütter did — with speed, elegance, and tactile accuracy. In her capable hands, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels is a biography of a scientific innovator that conjures, more vividly than it otherwise might, the atmosphere of the often terrifying and swiftly transforming field of medicine in the 19th century.”—The Los Angeles Review of Books“Aptowicz shows Mütter, beloved by his students, evolving from a mischievous, impatient young doctor to an increasingly spiritual man beset by premature illness, and her writing is as full of life as her subject.”—Publishers Weekly, *starred review*“Dr. Mütter’s Marvels shares some of the very best qualities of Mary Roach’s iconic Stiff, especially a gross-out curiosity factorand great story-telling. Add a larger-than-life subject and you havenarrative nonfiction magic. Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz tells her story with gusto, taking the reader from the hospitals of Paris to the great medical colleges of Philadelphia in the first half of the 19th century. There is a lot of medical history here, but it is so unbelievable, so over-the-top (yet true!) that readers will be riveted.”—School Library Journal, *starred review*“In her deftly crafted narrative, the author provides an absorbing account of the charismatic surgeon’s life and career as well as a vivid look at the medical practices and prejudices of his time. Aptowicz draws nicely on Mütter’s speeches and lectures to reveal the depth of his empathetic philosophies and humanist approach.”—Kirkus *starred review*“Aptowicz penned a fast-moving and popular history of the early to mid-19th-century American and Parisian medical worlds, making the most of works by and about Mütter’s contemporaries.”—Library Journal *starred review*, named Best of 2014 in Science“Surgery suffered some serious growing pains in early-nineteenth-century America, with no anesthesia, no sterile conditions, no recovery rooms. Enter Thomas Dent Mütter. The flamboyant physician nudged American medicine forward with his teaching, surgical prowess, and compassion…This book shines light on an unusual and talented doctor and the evolving medical landscape that he helped shape.”—Booklist“Dr. Mütter’s Marvels is a fascinating story in its own right, and it’s pried open with the poetic skill of author Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, who spent a decade researching it. The book is ceaselessly interesting but not showy, and Aptowicz expertly paints the scenes with broad brushstrokes and tiny details. It’s a nearly perfect piece of non-fiction.”—The Onion’s AV Club, named a Best Book of 2014“Dr. Mütter’s larger-than-life, showman’s personality and incredible medical advancements pair thrillingly with Aptowicz’s enthusiastic writing to deliver many unbelievable facts that readers will need to share with friends.”—School Library Journal, named a Best Adult Book for Teens 2014“This is one of those historical science tales that seems too weird to be true. Our modern notion of surgery, complete with anaesthesia and after-care, was invented by a late nineteenth century plastic surgeons, as Aptowicz unravels this engrossing story.”— io9.com, named a Best Science Book of 2014“A truly Philadelphian saga deftly told by City of Brotherly Love native Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, Dr. Mütter's Marvels is a comprehensive and engaging biography of 19th-century surgeon, teacher and author Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter. Best known these days as the founding force behind the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Mütter was essential at shaping the course of medicine in innumerable ways, and Aptowicz navigates his too-short and highly influential life expertly.”—Asbury Park Press, named a Best Book of 2014“…Austin-based poet and writer Aptowicz, a woman whose various awards and publications attest to her formidable skill and style when dealing with an impressive diversity of subjects… provide[s] such a thorough and compelling account of Mütter's life and times, his medical innovations and personal fortitude, his enduring legacy, as is to be found betweenthe well-designed covers of this new book.”—The Austin Chronicle
Q. What inspires your writing?
A. I am a life-long lover of reading. My mother was always reading -- newspapers, magazines, books -- and she would read out loud the parts that she found the most interesting. So from a very young age, books were these magic little boxes filled with the most interesting and amazing things I'd ever heard. Once I learned to read myself, I gobbled down books. And once I learned that you could be a writer, and spend your life writing stories, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. That was in the fourth grade.
Q. What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A. Well, firstly, there is the community. Writing itself is a very isolating activity. You have to spend hours of your day (for days, weeks, months or years, depending on your project) working absolutely alone in your own head. However, once you pop your head out of your office, there is a community of writers out there with whom you can form a family. If there is anything better than having writers you admire encourage you, put books in your hands, introduce you to writers, editors and agents, and open doors that you might otherwise never have known existed, it's maybe being at a point in your career where you can turn around and do that same thing to up-and-coming writers whose work you yourself admire. It's wonderful.
On a day to day level, I am a writer who traffics largely in true stories: my prose books are all nonfiction and my poetry is largely autobiographical. And there is something deeply satisfying with sharing a story with the public that might otherwise never have been heard. It is a honor.
Q. What is the toughest part of being a writer?
A. The uncertainty, absolutely. Pretty much on every level. Every writer has to face that empty page, and wonder if the next piece of writing they did will finally reveal to the world what a talentless fraud they are. You would think the more successful you get, the easier facing that page would become -- but no! The stakes just get higher! Now the worry that you won't be seen as a good writer is replaced with the fear that you will be seen as the person who wrote something good ONCE and is now confirmed to be a talentless hack otherwise! And even if you create something you are proud of, there is the question of whether you will find a publisher. If you find a publisher, there is the uncertainty about whether they’ll do you book justice. If you find a great publisher who is able to produce a gorgeous book and offer it in wide distribution, there is still the uncertainty that the book will find an audience! And even if you achieve that, there is the renewed uncertainty that you'll be able to do it all again!
Luckily, there is a cure: work. Just do the work. So much stuff is out of your control -- in writing and in life -- but there is one thing you CAN control, and that is the amount of work you do on your end. So I just focus on that, and face each subsequent uncertainty only when I need to!
Q. If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
A. I would be an office worker of some sort. I was an "permission assistant" at a copyright organization in New York City for eight years prior to becoming a full-time writer, and it was a really great job. I know some artists and writers find it chaffing to work in a traditional office setting, and then be expected to go home with enough creative juice to do their own work, but I didn't mind it at all. Free air-conditioner, free printing, free coffee -- and frequently office birthday parties with free cake? There was a lot to love. So I would likely be doing something like that -- but still writing on the side. I would never stop writing. I'd Emily Dickinson it up, and lock it all up in a trunk for future readers to find, if need be. But you couldn't stop me from writing.
Q. What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. Ha! Good question! I don't know -- it would be a multi-volume set! Like Anais Nin's diaries! And each book would have its own title! Plus, I'm only 36! I have no idea where my life will go next -- that's kind of the best thing about life, don't you think?
Q. What is your favorite book of all time?
A. IMPOSSIBLE TO ANSWER! Come on! But I can give you some favorites I've returned to often in my life: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Dear Darkness by Kevin Young, Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, The Art of Losing anthology by Kevin Young, Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds, John Adams by David McCullough, Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, In the Small of My Backyard by Matt Cook, and those are just off the top of my head! I'd also like to state that all these writers are alive and well, and creating new work! How wonderful is that?
Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A. Since my poetry is autobiographical -- and I've published six books of poetry -- and since I appear in my own nonfiction book, Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, I'm going to say me!
Q. What character from all of your book are you most like?
A. Ha! Ditto the answer from above. Although, I'd love to think that I'm similar to Thomas Dent Mutter -- the protagonist of Dr Mutter's Marvels. He was a scrappy, hard-working man filled with passion for helping people that most of his community ignored, and I'd like to think that there are qualities of him and his work within me and the work I do. Or at least, I hope!
Q. Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
A.There are so many! I love good conversation, so I think I'd like to live in any of the poetry books of Matt Cook, who is a brilliant, idiosyncratic nerd. It would be so lovely to walk around his world with him by my side, cracking me up.
Q. What is your favorite season?
A. Autumn, by far: flannel. apple cider. fireplaces. pumpkin pancakes.
Q. What inspired your book cover(s)? Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A. I have been really lucky to work with artists who get my work, and create really love covers that reflect that. I love all my covers. My favorite cover, however, is my most recent one for Dr Mutter's Marvels. It was created by the world renown photographer Dan Winters -- who also did my author photo -- and it is just stunning. I am sure I sold hundreds, if not thousands, of copies of that book because of what a stunning job he did on that cover.
Q. Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.
A. When the Philadelphia Free Library (my hometown library) had a big event for my book Dr Mutter's Marvels -- which is set in Philadelphia and tells the true story of the origins of one of its most famous museums -- the audience was filled with people from every part of my childhood and adolescence: old teachers, old babysitters, old prom dates, and more. It was a packed event, and the signing line took almost an hour to get through, and little did I know that as I sat at the table signing books, my bawdy and fantastic mom was running up and down the line, hugging folks and zinging them with funny one-liners. My mother passed away this past summer, and it was such a gift to hear friends say, "Your mom was so happy the last time I saw her! It was at that Free Library event, and the first thing she said to me was, "Jesus! You've gotten OLD!"" Classic mom!
Q. Are you working on something new?
A. Yes -- another historical nonfiction book! The plot is under wraps until it sells, but I can tell you it is a strange and fascinating secret history!
Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A. If there are any questions I haven't answered, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@coaptowicz) or Facebook (author page: Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz). As I start my next book, I'll be behind my computer a lot and so would love the happy distractions! Oh, and check my website often to see if I have a tour date near you: www.aptowicz.com