Nicholas Lezard writing about A Doctor’s Dictionary in The Guardian, 24 August 2015.
“What you get … are 26 essays, shoehorned into an alphabetical schema, which started life either as occasional pieces in journals literary and medical or – worse – book reviews.
I felt cheated – until I started reading it. These are substantial essays, full of unexpected insights. Wide-ranging in theme, they deal with the questions of what it is to have a body, and what it is to have a mind. There is often, but not invariably, a medical bent to them, but the frame of reference is skewed towards the humanities. A look at the index shows that the people most often cited are Shakespeare, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, WH Auden, Walter Benjamin, Thomas Mann, Freud, Proust, Osip Mandelstam and Stendhal. […]
As if being a doctor doesn’t keep him busy enough, he doubles up as a poet, with five collections to his name. He is also a translator, a public health consultant specialising in developing countries and lecturer in comparative literature. He spent a year at an isolated mining town in Australia, Broken Hill, where the streets are named after chemicals used in mining: bromide, argent, cobalt, oxide, chloride, etc (“Bromide” was his street). […]
His language is precise: in a piece on Chekhov’s visit to Sakhalin Island, during which the author saw humanity stripped of all civilisation, Bamforth points out with enviable precision that “natural man is the shame of nature”. […] In short, this is almost a crazily good book. You will like it not only if you want to know the body a bit better, but also if you are interested in culture and how it contributes to, as it were, the corpus of experience. All this he manages in prose that is clear, unfussy, but stylish and quite in command of itself, while never losing sight of the fact that there are more important things.”