Glasser, Ronald J. 1940(?)-

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GLASSER, Ronald J. 1940(?)-

PERSONAL: Born c. 1940.

CAREER: Physician, nonfiction writer, and novelist. Pediatric nephrologist and rheumatologist in Minnesota, 1970—. Military service: Officer in U.S. Army Medical Corps1960s; stationed at U.S. Evacuation Hospital, Camp Zama, Japan. .


365 Days, G. Braziller (New York, NY), 1971.

Ward 402, G. Braziller (New York, NY), 1973.

The Body Is the Hero, Random House (New York, NY), 1976.

The Greatest Battle, Random House (New York, NY), 1976.

Another War, Another Place: A Novel, Summit Books, 1985.

The Light in the Skull: An Odyssey of Medical Discovery, Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1997.

ADAPTATIONS: 365 Days was adapted as The Dramatization of 365 Days by H. Wesley Balk and published by the University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

SIDELIGHTS: Ronald J. Glasser is one of the leading contemporary writers of medical-based novels. Using his own experiences as a physician, Glasser describes the intricate relationship between doctor and patient in each of his works. Glasser also examines several social and ethical problems that exist relating to the decisions doctors make in treating their patients as medicine advances in the age of technology. Harry Schwartz remarked in Saturday Review, "His ability to move readers emotionally while accurately describing the front lines, where doctors and very sick people come together, won him a large audience."

Glasser's first and best-known book, 365 Days, is a collection of sketches about wounded and dying American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. He relates what it means to be a wounded young man fighting for his life in a foreign land and the freedom of humanity. "The war is the cause and excuse for the book, but the theme is the waste of war, the destruction of our American young," wrote Thomas Lask in the New York Times. The majority of the soldiers, who were eighteen to nineteen years old, came from the lower-middle and working classes and were compelled to serve their country for lack of any other alternative. Glasser writes of the courage of the soldiers, upheld even when they know their battle is lost. The last sketch, titled "The Burn Ward," was also published separately. In this story. Glasser tells the story of how David, with charred body and days numbered, first feels hope for life then becomes angry when reality sets in. The sketch ends with pleas from David to the doctor to accompany his coffin when he returns home.

In Ward 402 Glasser deals with human concerns in relation to health care. The story centers on a young girl dying from leukemia who is brought by her parents to a well-known teaching and research hospital, not for treatment, but to die quickly and comfortably. Upon admission to the hospital, a pediatric resident and intern team up and begin a heroic effort to save the girl's life despite protests from her parents. After suffering major complications which invoke tremendous pain and suffering, the child dies within the month. The intern, who becomes emotionally attached to the girl, has second thoughts on the mode of treatment only after witnessing the outcome. The story describes the social and ethical implications regarding the mode of treatment chosen by the attending physician. Should a terminally ill patient be kept alive by heroic measures, even if it is against the wishes of patients or their families? Through this fictitious tale, Glasser stresses the need for greater communication between physicians and laymen.

Glasser's The Greatest Battle is a different kind of book, describing the basic facts of cancer. Glasser explains that most cases of cancer are self-inflicted and can be prevented if the people of today's society understood the consequences of their behavior. "We know the facts and we know the remedies, but the mixture of vested interests, fatalism, and indifference will no doubt ensure that this situation improves slowly, if at all," commented June Goodfield in the Washington Post Book World. Glasser presents evidence in each chapter to support the claim that the chemicals that are poisoning our atmosphere are equally playing havoc with our bodies.



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 37, Gale (Detroit, MI) 1986.


Best Sellers, July, 1985, pp. 125-126.

Listener, June 1, 1972, pp. 735-736.

New Republic, August 18, 1973, p. 23.

New York Times, September 11, 1971, p. 25.; September 8, 1973, p. 29.

New York Times Book Review, April 21, 1985, p. 26.

Newsweek, September 13, 1971, pp. 101-102.

Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1985, p. 89.

Saturday Review, September 11, 1971, pp. 46-47; May 1, 1976, p. 36.

Washington Post Book World, January 9, 1977, pp. K3-5.*