Danashevsky’s Maxims: Short Stories

Richard Stein

Publisher: Diggypod Pages: 200 Price: (paperback) $14.99 ISBN: 9781639018031 Reviewed: July, 2021

Richard Stein’s short story collection presents 17 entertaining stories about the practice of medicine, the women and men who work in the medical world, and the consequences of their choices.

Stein’s stories are inspired by events he observed during his 45 years as a practicing physician. Set in Boston, Chicago, and Nashville, they begin in the 1970s during the Vietnam War and end in the 2000s amid emerging technological advances, such as electronic medical record systems.

Danashevsky’s Maxims are precepts on how physicians should approach the practice of medicine and are attributed to T. Danashevsky, a mysterious medical scholar whom the collection’s doctors have heard of, but never met. Danashevsky’s eminence looms, and directives —such as “A tired doctor can be a dangerous doctor but an ignorant physician is always dangerous” — echo in the physicians’ consciousness when treating patients.

Each story is a stand-alone, convincing portrait of doctors doctoring and characters grappling with infidelity, religious faith, abuse, gender bias, abortion, death, and ambition. All is not dark, though; lighthearted scenarios and characters balance out weighty issues. Some characters reappear, and their lives’ progressions contribute to the collection’s successful chronological story arc — especially the titular work, which offers a delightful, final revelation.

Certain stories quote Danashevsky directly, as in “Just Nerves?,” a layered tale about a doctor who sways her patient’s decision by respecting “the emotional and intellectual space [he/she occupies].“ Others demonstrate a maxim, such as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which illustrates Danashevsky ‘s words: “Assume nothing. All conclusions require evidence.”

Several don’t invoke any Danashevkyisms. “Pretty Black Dresses” shows how one’s past curses one’s future. A medical school applicant pranks the admissions committee in “Personal Statements.” “Slippery Slopes” and “The Woman in the Blue Sweater” are chilling, accomplished revenge tales.

In all, Danashevsky’s Maxims successfully takes readers behind the scenes of the medical world. It is a pleasure to read.

Author's Current Residence
Nashville, Tennessee