Robert Oldshue: Is There a Doctor in the House? (Can Somebody PLEASE Get Him Out of Here?)

Robert Oldshue
photo: Robin Rodin

One of the earliest stories in November Storm, Robert Oldshue’s Iowa Short Fiction Award-winning debut collection, has a character who teaches eighth greade math in my old hometown in the Boston suburbs, a few years before I would’ve been taking eighth grade math. (I’m pretty sure it’s not actually based on any of my junior high math teachers, but to be honest I don’t really remember any of them that well.) But what I really love about Oldshue’s fiction is the way he uses voice to carry us through a sequence of events, whether it’s the first-person narration of domestic crises in “Home Depot” or the analytical overview a psychiatrist applies to his personal and professional life while cycling through his contemporary caseload in “Mass Mental.” That last one’s interesting because, as Oldshue notes in this guest post, despite his long career in medicine, it’s the only story in the collection about a doctor. Here’s why…

Because I’m a physician who writes fiction, I’m often asked how I do both. People want to know how I find the time, and, generally, I describe the deplorable state of my lawn, seeing patients while wearing mismatched socks and unironed shirts, and forgetting dates, including the date of one very public reading. The thing people don’t ask but should is how I shed my doctor self when I’m my fiction-writing self.

And this is what I’d say: I don’t. I can’t. Instead, I make myself aware of the differences between the two so, on a given day, I know which one I’m doing.

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2 January 2017 | selling shorts |

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