Thursday, December 9, 2010

HOSPITAL: an interview with author Julie Salamon

Julie Salamon is the author of HOSPITAL: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God and Diversity, a book about Maimonides Hospital in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

Julie was a reporter and the film critic for The Wall Street Journal for many years and then a culture writer on the staff of the New York Times.

Maimonides Hospital is named for the 12th century Jewish philosopher and teacher, who is also known as Rambam.

One of Julie's books explores our culture of giving in the context of Rambam's teachings and meditations about generosity.

Riding the subway every day from her home in Manhattan's Greenwich Village to Borough Park in Brooklyn, she spent more than a year getting to know the innermost workings of this unusually multicultural hospital and we benefit from wonderfully intimate insights into many of the people who work there, from the highest level managers and "star" surgeons to the staff of the emergency room. She shares with us the most mundane process of note-taking and recording the interviews to how writing this book has affected her personal life.

Hospital is Julie's seventh book and, on the face of it, each of them is very different from the other. Despite the variety of their themes however, she says everything she has written reflects her abiding interest in how human beings are able to maintain their humanity in the face of the most challenging of circumstances.

I found myself thinking about this hospital in the pauses between reading the book. Now, a month after I finished reading it, Maimonides remains vivid and alive for me: I can see the place and the people very clearly, even though I've never been there!

I urge you to read it and to listen to our interview on Tidings, recently broadcast on WPKN independent radio.