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Physical

An American Checkup

James McManus

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Physical is the story of a hard-living, happily married, middle-aged American (the author) who gets a three-day "executive checkup" at the Mayo Clinic and is thereby forced to confront his mortality, not to mention glove-wearing doctors and the pair of dominatrix-esque technicians who supervise his stress test quite strictly. James McManus must understand his revised actuarial odds in the light of his not-so-long-lived forebears and the fact that his youngest children are only six and five years old. He has to survive his own cardiovascular system, inherited habits, and genetic handicaps long enough to see Bea and Grace into adulthood. But with so much at stake, and in spite of his terror of death, he may not have the willpower to follow the Mayo clinicians' advice. On a related health front, McManus's twenty-nine-year-old daughter, Bridget, has lived with juvenile diabetes since she was four, and the Bush Administration's opposition to the stem cell research that could save her life makes him feel like he "might have to do something rash." Meanwhile, should he have a vasectomy? Or try for another child, having lost his only son? How much longer will he be able to perform such manly feats without Viagra? Is his grateful wife sleeping with the brilliant ophthalmological surgeon who saved their daughter's vision? Physical negotiates the political and medical forks in the labyrinth of our health care system and calls for sanity and enlightenment in the stem cell research wars. It's a no-holds-barred, wrenching, but often hilarious portrait of the looming mortality of a privileged generation that can't believe the party's winding down, if not over.

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Excerpted from Physical by James McManus. Copyright © 2006 by James McManus. Published in January, 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

THAT'S THAT

I looked away to the hills
Above the river, where the golden lights of sunset

And sunrise are one and the same, and I saw something flying
Back and forth, fluttering its wings. Then it stopped in mid-air,
It was an angel, one of the good ones, about to sing.

--MARK STRAND, Dark Harbor, XLV

I would kiss the diamondback if I knew it would get me to heaven.

--LUCINDA WILLIAMS.
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  • Physical by James McManus--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from James McManus' book Physical: An American Checkup. When hard-living, middle-aged American writer James McManus gets a three-day executive checkup at the Mayo Clinic, he is immediately forced to confront his mortality. Will he survive his own cardiovascular system and genetic inheritance long enough to see his young daughters grow up?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • James McManus

  • James McManus, the author of Positively Fifth Street (FSG, 2003) and four novels, including Going to the Sun, is the poker columnist for The New York Times. In 2001 he received the Peter Lisagor Award for sports journalism. A portion of Physical that appeared in Esquire has been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, Best American Magazine Writing, and Best American Political Writing. He teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • James McManus Copyright Aynsley Floyd
    James McManus
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Physical

An American Checkup

James McManus

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