In “The Empathy Exams,” her extraordinary new book of essays, she calls to mind writers as disparate as Joan Didion and John Jeremiah Sullivan as she interrogates the palpitations of not just her own trippy heart but of all of ours.
Her book isn’t, except in passing, a medical memoir. “The Empathy Exams” bounces among topics. There are essays on travel in dangerous territories, on men in prison, on extreme endurance races, on saccharine, on murder trials, on unusual diseases, on women and pain. Ms. Jamison’s mind plays across topics as disparate as the HBO series “Girls” and the morphology of folk tales.
“Empathy isn’t just something that happens
to us — a meteor shower of synapses
firing across the brain — it’s also a choice
we make: to pay attention,
to extend ourselves,”