Skip to main content
Cover for Swallow


Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them

Mary Cappello


List Price: 18.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (12/28/2010)


In this fascinating and lyrical book, the seemingly disparate but equally marvelous worlds of the circus and the medical amphitheater meet in characters ranging from the sword swallowers and women who lunched on hardware to the sensitive, bullied boy who grew up to be the father of endoscopy. The M tter Museum's Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection, a cabinet filled with thousands of items that have been swallowed or inhaled, then extracted nonsurgically by a pioneering laryngologist using rigid instruments of his own design, sets the stage for award-winning author Mary Cappello's moving investigative portrait of Dr. Chevalier Jackson (1865-1958), his cosmology of objects, and the lives he saved. Its own uncanny, deeply rewarding assemblage, Swallow brings together the complex physiology of the human swallow and the menace of a button box; a willed ingestion of non-nutritive things that is little understood and a social history of hunger; the humanitarian mission that bred the Federal Caustic Poison Act of 1927 and a crusade to make the world "foreign body conscious.

Praise For Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them

"Swallow is a surprising and original work. It is biography on the slant, a meditation that transcends boundaries and genres, written with scholarship, humor, and panache. I urge you to take this journey."
Ricky Jay

"[Cappello's] writing style is wistful, wacky, and wise. . . . Swallow is a strange and alluring work of musings and medical history. . . . Occupying a curious position between Ripley’s Believe It or Not and riveting biography, this book is something special."
Tony Miksanek, MD, JAMA

"A wonderful and bizarre book: gorge yourself on it, and gulp."
Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic

"Cappello's fine writing creates a book that goes down very easy."
Paul Di Filippo, The Barnes & Noble Review

New Press, 9781595587770, 304pp.

Publication Date: May 1, 2012

About the Author

Mary Cappello is the author of Awkward (a Los Angeles Times bestseller), Called Back, and Night Bloom. A recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the Bechtel Prize for Educating the Imagination, and the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize, she teaches at the University of Rhode Island and lives in Providence.