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A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies:…

A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies: Stories (2003)

by John Murray

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I really enjoyed reading this. ( )
  kephradyx | Jun 20, 2017 |
Eight stories inspired by science, medicine and nature.
  MerrittGibsonLibrary | Jun 30, 2016 |
A couple of good stories but most are dull. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
"A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies" is a psychological tragedy. You cannot help but feel sorry for the first person protagonist as he slowly loses his grip on his once secure life. As a plastic surgeon married to a neurosurgeon twenty years his junior he has turned to the bottle to reconcile the memory of the death of his sister, his grandfather's suicide brought about by mental illness, his wife's miscarriage and his own handed-down obsession with butterflies.

"Watson and the Shark" is a different kind of tragedy. A doctor volunteering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is witness to the brutal injuries a boy suffers at the hands of machete-mad soldiers. He begins to operate on the critically wounded boy when hundreds of other severely wounded men, women and children are brought into his operating tent. In the beginning of the story the narrator feels like god, controlling the lives of the mangled patients under his knife. He has the power to stitch them together and potentially give them their life back. But, as he watches the multitude of mutilated suffer and die he begins to feel a hopelessness creep in. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 9, 2013 |
This was a beautiful, thoughtful and interesting group of long(ish) short stories that often took my breath away. I am a bit new to the short story genre, but these struck me as unique, both in location and subject matter. Each of the eight stories deals with some similar themes, e.g., loss (usually of a parent), acceptance of hardships and issues of parenting (from either a grown child's perspective or a parent's perspective) and often the struggle between being a parent and pursuing individual needs and desires. There are also themes of what we become, and why, either to follow in our parents' footsteps or conversely, consciously avoid that path. The stories often weave in exotic locations, India, Africa, the Himalayas; and also usually involve some facet of the medical profession (even if just the learning) as the author is a doctor. The thing I loved is that I felt I learned a little bit about something with each story, whether beetles, butterflies, carpentry, surgery, volunteering in a war-torn country, etc. The stories do tend to wander a bit, they don't have a cohesive beginning/middle/end, but that said, I think that is part of their beauty. Characters walk in, walk out, and some never reappear, much like life. Although I liked them all, I believe my favorite story was "The Carpenter Who Looked Like A Boxer" - about a self-labled ugly man who marries a beautiful physician with some dark secrets that bubble up early in their marriage. He is left with the couple's two children and he just tells of the simple joys of being a father, artist, carpenter and homeowner. He accepts his flaws and as the story grows, he learns to like who he is and what he provides for his children and others. It's a beautiful story. My second favorite was "All The Rivers In The World" about a chubby, stuck-in-middle-life man who road trips from Maine to Florida to try to figure out why his father left his mother and sold everything to live/work on a fishing boat in Florida. As is often true of life, things were not what he thought, and he gains new understanding and empathy about his father and himself. I highly recommend this book, especially if you like something a bit off the beaten path. ( )
1 vote CarolynSchroeder | Dec 12, 2012 |
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Für Valerie
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"Perhaps this was the vanity of a bookish young man; I have always felt that by understanding something completely, I should be able to master it."
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Der Autor von "Kurze Notizen zu tropischen Schmetterlingen" war Arzt bei "Ärzte ohne Grenzen" (MSF).
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060509295, Paperback)

John Murray trained as a doctor, and his debut collection of stories, A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies, reveals its author's background. Not all of his characters are physicians, but they tend to share a doctor's ability to concentrate on details and compartmentalize emotions. In "The Hill Station," the American-born daughter of Indian parents returns to India, where she speaks at a conference on infectious diseases. She is charged with new, ungovernable feelings when she finally meets actual patients with the disease she specializes in; heretofore, she had only known cholera under a microscope. Murray bumps his heroine into a new, looser way of living as she travels deeper into dirty, disease-ridden India. In the title story, a doctor mourns the loss of his sister and comes to terms with his family history, all the while examining butterflies. In "Blue," a climber ascends a Himalayan peak under dire circumstances and encounters ghostly memories of his father. These stories of frustrated, intelligent achievers can recall Mark Helprin, and Murray has, too, some of Helprin's ambitious scope. These stories aren't as crystalline as Helprin's, but that's a small complaint to lodge against an elegant first collection. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:17 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"In this debut collection, John Murray meshes fact with fiction, taking his inspiration from the worlds of science, medicine, and nature. The stories are set in locations across the globe - a cholera tent in the slums of Bombay, a United Nations refugee camp in the mountains of Africa, a Key West hideaway - where his characters, among them doctors, nurses, research scientists, explorers, and collectors, can be found reading The Manual of Clinical Microbiology or Gray's Anatomy or the Complete Textbook of Psychiatry." "And yet, despite the pull of the outer world, these stories are all about the internal world of emotions - love, loss, obsession, and conflict - and about families and how they survive. They unfold to tell of moments when people catch glimpses of their real selves, their pasts, and have flashes of understanding about their lives. In "The Hill Station, " an American-born scientist is drawn to Bombay, the homeland of her parents, where she breaks free from the confines of her well-ordered life. The title story tells of an aging surgeon who uses his grandfather's collection of butterflies to try and make sense of his past. In "Blue, " a young man - still haunted by the tragic death of his father years earlier - traverses the Himalayan mountain that would have been his father's last climb. In "Acts of Memory, Wisdom of Man, " the son of Indian immigrants relives the summer of 1968, and the events that determined his brother's fate."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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