What's Wrong with Dorfman?
By John Blumenthal
Published by St. Martin's Press 
August 2003; 0312311885; 240 pages

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What's Wrong with Dorfman? by John BlumenthalChapter 1

Idiotic as this may sound, I have never been entirely convinced that one day I, Martin Dorfman, will actually be a dead person; that I will truly shuffle off this mortal coil, that I will, like billions of poor saps before me, perish, expire, croak, give up the ghost, pass away, breathe my last, kick the bucket. Sure, I've worried about death often enough, I've even obsessed on the subject, but not with any sense of realistic urgency. Why? Because in my heart of hearts I always figure the Grim Reaper will somehow skip over me, that Modern Science will find a cure, that I will never actually expire, not me, no way. If I could get out of sixth period gym class at Rimbaldi Junior High , a feat requiring more than a little finesse, I can certainly wrangle my way out of something as pedestrian as death. In a pinch, my special relationship with God -- the one in which I implore Him for mercy when I'm really desperate and then deny His very existence the following week -- will cause Him to overlook my poor, pitiful self when my time comes to meet my Maker i.e. Him. Or my name will get lost in the mammoth filing system that surely must exist in His Heavenly Bureaucracy. Mine, you see, will be the missing card in the Cosmic Rolodex.


Part of the problem is that, having spent most of my life in a state of aliveness (opinions may differ), I simply can not picture myself as a dead person. Me, a corpse, forget it! It's just not my look, folks. On some people cadaverhood works, but not me. What would I wear? How could I keep a straight face for all eternity with all those mourners looking so grim?

The fact is, I've only been to two funerals in my lifetime, but I just can't seem to make myself believe that there is really anybody in the box. It's a prank, you see, they've really just left town for awhile or they've become part of the government's witness protection program. Somewhere, in some whitebread Midwestern town, these so-called "dead people" are actually still alive with bogus names, menial jobs and some plastic surgery. We are standing here weeping over an empty box, folks, I'm certain of it. We are eulogizing thin air!

And then the stark reality of it all suddenly hits me: I, Martin Dorfman, could develop colon cancer or Crohn's Disease or some other malignant horror and die by early next week and guess what would happen? Nada. Sure, my friends would weep and moan and say nice things about me, such as how courageous and caring and optimistic I always was, all of it bunk. A rabbi I had never met in my life would utter a few generically pertinent words, a sort of Mad Lib Funeral Speech, a fill in the blanks panegyric. Martin Dorfman was a blank man, a man of blank and blank. A man who felt blank for his fellow man. Sure, my wife Ursula would grieve for awhile, shed some tears, soak a few hankies, but eventually she would remarry someone handsomer, wittier and more romantically inclined than me and live happily ever after in a larger house with a quieter dishwasher and a roomier walk-in closet. The kids would be sad, but the promise of a frozen yogurt on a waffle cone with two toppings would snap them out of it with stunning alacrity.

All of which is going through my mind on this day -- April 10, 1992 -- as I hold in my hand two Little Pink Pills which, I am assured, will cure me of a mysterious disease that has plagued me for two solid years. Two years! Two years of nausea! Seven-hundred and thirty days of anguish! Seventeen thousand, five hundred and twenty hours of despair... One million, fifty one thousand, two hundred seconds of grief.

The point is, will these Little Pink babies save me from another inept sojourn in the garage with the motor running and the door closed? A bungled attempt to do away with myself. Perhaps next time I should try hanging. Cleaner than bullets. No mess to clean up. On the other hand, I must say, the guillotine does have its appeal -- quiet, instantaneous -- but where exactly does one find a reasonably priced guillotine and who would dispose of my severed head, torso and limbs? Or, I could overdose on Valium. Die in my sleep. Never know what hit me... Go gentle into that good night...

But I'm getting way ahead of myself....

Copyright 2003 John Blumenthal
Reprinted with permission.
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Meet Martin Dorfman: cynic, hypochondriac, and burned-out screenwriter. In the midst of navigating his latest film script through Hollywood Development Hell--an agonizing journey even for a healthy person-- the forty-year-old Dorfman wakes up one morning with a mysterious disease. After a battery of medical tests, his doctors conclude that he is in perfect health, but Dorfman is convinced he is dying and sets out on an odyssey to find a diagnosis.

Taken into the lunatic fringes of alternative medicine, Dorfman encounters his innermost demons, as well as the beguiling Delilah Foster, a fellow hypochondriac, whom he meets in his doctor's office. Will Dorfman find a cure? Will his movie get made? Will he run away with Delilah Foster? And most importantly, what indeed is wrong with Dorfman?

More than just the plight of one man, What's Wrong With Dorfman? reflects the angst of modern society and asks the question "Aren't we all a little nuts?

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John BlumenthalJohn Blumenthal was born in Middletown, New York in 1949. He attended Tufts University and is a former editor and columnist for Playboy Magazine.

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