Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the BMJ

This week’s BMJ has the most impressive, aesthetically satisfying BMJ cover I’ve seen in years. There have been other great ones in the past, but this one should undeniably join that canon. It has on it a couple of kids that brought to mind the charming image of the child on the cover page of this Penguin edition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale. The cover also bears the title One Hundred Years of Poverty, reminiscent of Marquez’s own One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The similarities go deeper than the cover. There is a report that research scientists, “like politicians” use spin in reporting findings, with claims bearing little relation to actual findings. I wonder why the choice of comparison with politicians rather than say novelists or autobiographers or even journal editors. We all use spin, don’t we? Why do we expect so much more of scientists than others and are so eager to portray politicians as despicable?

Last week, the BMJ published a paper showing association between thigh circumference and reduced rate of heart disease and early death, and in sheer disregard for the traditional caution of not taking association for causation, the BMJ titled a press release to promote the paper “Large thighs protect against heart disease and early death.” Now that is spin.

There’s another Garcia Marquezian feature, a report, in this edition. It states that one out of five articles published in medical journals has a guest (gift, honorary) author and one out of every 12 has a ghost (unnamed) author. It is interesting just to imagine a world where the possibility of having ghost or guest novelists, short story writers, autobiographers and playwrights exists. That very imagination lends itself to the apparent chaos and of course magic of the absurd.

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