From Kirkus Reviews
The pseudonymous Hirsch, a Maryland-based practicing physician, brings med student Seth Levine to life right from the opening chapter, in which a cadaver proves prime fodder for a game between him and his classmates involving body parts. In a Manhattan medical school, Seth and his classmates fret over grades, girls, and the gory medical details of ailing patients while also attempting to navigate their melodramatic personal lives and wavering grade-point averages. Seth’s relationship with his girlfriend, April, is troubled, especially after they go through a pregnancy scare. She’s a small-town girl from Virginia, and the big city frightens her as much as it invigorates Seth. Hirsch buffers the intensity of Seth’s subsequent medical school years and challenging residency inpatient cases (including a particularly riveting childbirth scene) with his likable lab partners, such as Sujay, who uses humor to take the awkwardness out of nerve-wracking anatomy examination classes and forensics-lab excursions. After April unceremoniously dumps Seth for another guy, he dives headfirst into his hospital-research rotations and his obsession over a stunning fellow student named Abby. As graduation looms ever closer, other issues emerge, but they aren’t anything a drunken foray at a Greenwich Village sex club can’t alleviate. Hirsch’s novel, a “multi-decade labor of love,” is intelligent, humorous, and authentic in tone. Seth’s first-person perspective allows the story to provide an intimate view into a clinical world, populated by both gracious and misanthropic medical professionals, all seen through the eyes of a neophyte. The protagonist also learns much about himself and his classmates along the way. Entertaining, educative, and unflaggingly funny, this debut novel will particularly appeal to real-life med students searching for a fast-moving, relatable respite between classes.
A dynamic, lightweight story of medical school, interwoven with the joys and pains of love and youth
Pseudonymous novelist David Z. Hirsch's debut novel, Didn't Get Frazzled, is a deftly written, highly entertaining story about medical students in New York City in the early '90s.
Readers can probably guess the novel's tone from the title of its first chapter, "A Beautiful Slice of Dead Penis," which depicts a medical student so arrogant he offers to eat any body part he can't name. Our protagonist and window into this strange fishbowl is Seth Levine, a first-year medical student at NYU who is on the downside of his relationship with live-in girlfriend, April.
Hirsch winks at readers in his made up, tongue-in-cheek bio that appears at novel's end, but the truth that he's a practicing physician in Maryland informs the book immensely. With macabre humor and terrific storytelling, he brings Seth safe but not unscarred through four grueling years of medical school that include rotations through a variety of medical disciplines. Where the author could have gone over-the-top with humor, he often plays it straight, relying on the inherent absurdity of a given situation. The doctor's OB/GYN training, where Seth experiences an "equipment failure" while practicing a pelvic exam on his teacher, is worth the price of admission alone.
But just when you think Hirsch is playing the story only for laughs, an authentic moment arises, as when Seth opens up to a patient. "Sometimes there's nothing you can do to prevent someone from dying," he says. "And then you have to do the impossible: pick yourself up and move on to the next thing. And do it all over again. And again. And learn to like it. And realize you're part of something amazing. Something important."
The only downside of this book is its weak title. Echoing the comedic tone of the 1989 comedy Gross Anatomy, the novel's affection for this uniquely strange experience makes it the best fictional portrayal of med school since ER. Readers will savor the experience.
Foreword Clarion Review:
Didn't Get Frazzled is by turns sardonic, touching, raucous, sexy, and sometimes downright gross. It's also hugely entertaining.
Who knew that going to medical school was so funny? David Z. Hirsch's Didn't Get Frazzled spins an episodic tale of four years in the life of Seth Levine, a future doctor in a New York City medical school. With a deadpan delivery and a marvelous sense of the ridiculous, Hirsch turns even the bleakest and most grotesque aspects of his snarky protagonist's training into comic fodder.
A cocky anatomy student bets that he will eat any part of a cadaver that he cannot name; a gynecological examination training session goes embarrassingly awry; and hapless interns, overenthusiastic gastroenterologists, and blasé pathologists encounter every sticky, slimy, and smelly substance a human body can emit. Squeamish readers should be warned that some parts of the story are scatological in the most literal sense.
Outside of the hospital, Seth and his cohort struggle to reconcile the round-the-clock stresses of medical training with their need for personal relationships and interior lives. Long-term relationships fail in agonizing slow motion; lonely survivors pine for idealized lost loves, rage inwardly against romantic rivals, and pursue forgetfulness in casual sexual hookups while tentatively dreaming of something better. The sensitivity and understanding found in these paralleling story arcs are a pleasing contrast to the hard-shelled attitude that Seth and his compatriots display in the hospital.
Amid the black humor, the misbegotten hookups, and the farcical mishaps, Seth's encounters with patients who desperately need his help suggest that despite all his surface sarcasm and cynicism, he is, indeed, learning to be a sympathetic and humane healer. The episodes in which Seth comes to understand a patient's true needs better than the presiding physician does, simply because he takes the time to observe and communicate with the human being in the hospital bed rather than simply glancing at a chart and checking a box, are a reminder that this kind of human contact is desperately needed in our health care system. One hopes that in their future careers, Seth and his real-life counterparts in medical school will remember the need for such human contact and communication when the pressures of their profession start to push them toward the kind of impersonal, dismissive treatment of patients that Seth observes (and Hirsch implicitly criticizes) among some established physicians.
David Z. Hirsch is a pseudonym. Although he swears that the story is fiction, readers may be pardoned for suspecting that many of the events in the story have some basis in reality, either in his own training or that of an acquaintance. Reminiscent of a cross between the television sitcom Scrubs and a medical version of One L by Scott Turow, Didn't Get Frazzled is by turns sardonic, touching, raucous, sexy, and sometimes downright gross. It's also hugely entertaining---Bradley A. Scott