Wardlife: The apprenticeship of a young writer as a hospital clerk

Andrew Steinmetz

Awards: Short-listed for 2000 QWF (formally QSPELL) Awards.

For nine years Andrew Steinmetz worked as a ward clerk in the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Department of a major hospital. Wardlife is a series of riveting prose vignettes—intensely observed moments drawn from diaries kept during the nine years the author spent as a ward clerk. With character sketches, dialogues, and brief meditations on subjects ranging from the language of poetry to the language of medicine, Wardlife records the hospital experience—the pathos and pain, the humour and horror—of life on the wards. Andrew Steinmetz conveys a profound and deeply sympathetic understanding of this unique environment that few other books have managed to do. Steinmetz is an astute observer who doesn't miss much: the feel of instruments, the tone of a "locating girl's" voice calling code blue, the oddly triumphant grieving of a family watching and singing at a dying father's bedside, and the complications of various hospital subcultures. He knows how medicine can drain our humanity, but he eloquently seeks a balance between medicalizing the personal and personalizing the medical.

Biography & Autobiography 1998

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Reviews


"Steinmetz...[has] the perception and imagination of a good writer, or a poet, really...Spinal-fluid-clear metaphors...This neat and well-constructed book can be read in one uninterrupted evening, or, over several delightful, before-sleep reads. Andrew Steinmetz, by the writing of this book has done all healthcare professionals a kindness. He has given us a polished mirror, one that shows more than our faces." -John L. Wright, MD, Medical Ethics, Vol. 9 No. 1

"Reading Wardlife allows a glimpse of how the hospital might appear to a mind prepared for the experience by Wallace Stevens and Michael Ondaatje, instead of Harrison's textbook. Scenes cleave along undetected fault lines; implausible categories emerge from the spaces between objects; accents fall on unlikely syllables. [.] Steinmetz's sketches tacitly point out that there are things about the hospital that the doctors can't see, things that training renders invisible." -David Kent, MD, Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 286 No. 1

"[Steinmetz] has been a rock musician, a librarian, a hospital clerk - an ordinary Joe, watching ordinary people die - but with this, his first book, he emerges most definitely as a talented young writer." -McGill News Alumni Quarterly

"This book makes me, as a physician, both proud and ashamed of what I do. Buy it and read it. Give copies to your physician friends. You will laugh, cry and sometimes curse, but you'll be all the better for it." -John Stewart, M.D., Canadian Medical Association Journal

"A remarkable first book... The writing is cool and clear. The picture of hospital life for doctors, nurses and patients is absolutely compelling." -Ian Brown, CBC This Morning - Sunday Edition"

[Steinmetz's] observations are sharp, sympathetic and oddly comforting, and he knows his way around a metaphor [...] This is prose poetry from a correspondent on the hospital front." -Wayne Janes, Toronto Sun

"He's an astute observer who doesn't miss much: the feel of instruments, the tone of a "locating girl's" voice calling a code blue, the oddly triumphant grieving of a family watching and singing at a dying father's bedside, the complicated roilings of various hospital subcultures. He knows how medicine can drain our humanity... He's eloquently subtle too, in seeking a balance between medicalizing the personal and personalizing the medical... Steinmetz has the writer's pitiless eye and worrying heart. Expect more good things from him." -Martin Levin, The Globe & Mail

"I wish I could have written this... I've never read something quite like Wardlife." -Carmine Starnino, Montreal Gazette

Andrew Steinmetz is the author of a memoir, Wardlife: The Apprenticeship of a Young Writer as a Hospital Clerk and two collections of poetry, Histories and Hurt Thyself. Steinmetz's work has been shortlisted for the Edna Staebler Award, the Quebec Writers Federation [QWF] First Book Award, the Mavis Gallant Prize for non-fiction, and the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Presently Steinmetz is the editor of Esplanade Books, the fiction imprint at Véhicule Press. He lives in Ottawa.

Other books by Andrew Steinmetz: Histories
Steinmetz
Trade paperback
188 pp 8.5" x 5.5"
ISBN13: 9781550651218

CDN $15.95
US & International
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