The M.D.


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The M.D. by Thomas M. Disch

Hardcover – Knopf – 1991 – 401 pages

Subtitled “A Horror Story,” this chilling tale begins mid-century in placid St. Paul, Minn., where little Billy Michaels is visited by the god Mercury, who announces that the stick Billy holds, with the desiccated corpse of a sparrow tied to one end, is a caduceus, whose power to harm and heal can be triggered by any curse uttered in rhyme. Disch–poet, playwright, writer of SF, children’s books, short stories and novels–follows Billy from his first experiences with the stick–healing nearby elm trees of Dutch elm disease, paralyzing his teenage stepbrother, turning his grandmother bald–into a life thoroughly corrupted by power. Though he cures his stepsister’s anorexia, the child they conceive together returns in the story’s apocalyptical, Boschian finale to orchestrate the mutilations and killings of other family members, all occuring in a world beset by a plague commanded by Billy-turned-William, now the head of a prospering medical research facility. As gruesome horrors accrue, Disch spares few of humanity’s institutions in this splenetic, morally barren story, and the Catholic Church and the concept of family are particularly hard hit.  – Publisher’s Weekly


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