The McCormick Method, Revealed

Analyze anything in three words!

What exactly is the McCormick Method of summation? It's a means, developed by Austin's No Shame Theatre impresario Shannon McCormick, whereby any text-based work can be boiled down to a cautionary imperative that begins, "Look out!"

Such that, for example, a volume exploring important American visual artists who moved away from the abstract expressionism of the early Fifties might be simply titled "Look Out: Jasper Johns!" Or Mario Puzo's The Godfather could be more effectively named "Look Out: Mafia!" Even David Foster Wallace's masterpiece, Infinite Jest, might be better expressed, titularly, as "Look Out: Dysfunction!"

Which is why we suspect Pamela Nagami's new book, Bitten: True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings (reviewed elsewhere this week), merits the arguably more relevant title "Look Out: Australia!" Because, chapter after chapter, regardless of what sort of creature it is whose bite or sting Nagami is discussing, it seems that there's always something just a little worse to be found Down Under.

From the chapter "Fangs in the Dark," detailing the bites of spiders: "Most people unfortunate enough to experience the bite of the recluse, the widow, or the wandering spider of Brazil will suffer, often profoundly, but they will live to tell the tale. This is not the case with the Australian funnel web spider."

From the chapter "Stingers From the Sea," about jellyfish: "the Australians, whose country can boast the greatest number of venomous species on land and sea."

From the chapter "The Limbless Ones," exploring the aftermath of snakebites: "Australia ... is the only continent that has more species of venomous than nonvenomous snakes."

In the chapter "Silent Stowaways," about the sometimes-fatal results of tick bites, Nagami states that death from tick paralysis in the U.S. has usually been under 10% since 1946. But then almost wryly adds: "However, in Australia, where it seems that all toxic animals are more toxic [italics mine], tick paralysis is often lethal."

Just something you might want to consider before booking that flight to Adelaide, mate.

Read Brenner's review of Bitten.

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More by Wayne Alan Brenner
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The McCormick Method, Shannon McCormick, Bitten: True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings, Pamela Nagami

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