Dr Liam Farrell, ‘ARE YOU THE F**KING DOCTOR?’ Dalzell Press. Price £15
Chances are, you’ll never have read a book like this. That’s because most of our communication with doctors is tense: is he going to say that the X-ray showed something nasty, or that what you thought was a simple freckle is really melanoma, or that he’s not a bit happy with the lab results of the urine specimen he took from you last week.
I first came on Dr Liam Farrell when he was writing a medical column for that Venerable Organ, the Irish News. It’s at least twenty-five years ago but I can still remember thinking that this man was unique: he could write about serious medical conditions in a clear, nimble and often amusing way. Then he vanished off the radar.
The first article in this wonderful book explains why: he became addicted to the morphine he was using with his patients. The article gives you a close-up on the physical and emotional experience of injecting morphine into your arm. It is terrifying and searingly honest.
But if you like terrifying and searing exclusively, you’ll be disappointed. Farrell has written (and continues to write) for such medical journals as the Lancet, the Journal of General Practice and the British Medical Journal. And of course the VO/IN. But always with a mischievous, off-centre eye.
There are dozens of short articles under general headings like ‘Love and Sex’, ‘I’ll just have an anti-biotic then’, ‘Fantastical adventures in family practice’, ‘House calls’ and ‘Death’. I’ve read all the articles in all the sections and I don’t think there was one that I didn’t either smile or guffaw loudly at.
One titled ‘The Dance of Death’ is a surreal piece in which he links heart-attacks to weddings at which they play ABBA’s Dancing Queen; ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning’ about people who collapse in church; and ‘Big Tits’ …Well, buy the book and you’ll find out. It’s all written brilliantly and in the best possible taste.
Farrell’s experience as a GP in Crossmaglen is drawn on for many of the articles, but if you’re looking for guns and bombs, they’re strictly in the background. Everything is transformed by his wonderfully off-beat sense of humour and sense of life.
The only thing that I’m confused by is the title. Those two asterisks: is the book titled ‘Are You The Forking Doctor?’ or ‘Are You The Funking Doctor’ or ‘Are You The Fatking Doctor?’ Very puzzling.
I’ll shortly be putting up info on how you can get a signed copy of my own latest book. In the meantime you could solve your Christmas present if you have someone who is interested in medicine, Crossmaglen and/or the odd way people act when they think something’s gone wrong with their bits.
This is one fucking funny book. Buy it.