There’s a journalistic truism: only once you’ve mastered the rules of reporting and storytelling are you allowed to break them. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize-winning guru of nonfiction narrative, breaks the cardinal rule of objectivity, weaving the story of his own quiet enlightenment into his account of the life and work of Dr. Paul Farmer, “the man who would cure the world.” Farmer, a Harvard-educated doctor and anthropologist and the founder of the international health organization Partners in Health, is an easily sanctified subject. Driven by liberation theology’s mandate to provide a “preferential option for the poor,” he’s devoted his life to wiping out diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS in dismal spots like rural Haiti and the slums of Lima, Peru. Farmer can be as infuriating as he is inspirational, and Kidder resists turning him into a poster boy for good works. Instead, describing Farmer’s affectionate bedside manner or half-day hikes to visit a patient across the central Haitian plateau, he creates a fully observed portrait of Farmer and PIH made all the more vivid by his own reckoning of the human cost of global poverty. Kidder will speak on “The Purpose of Journalism: Reporting That Matters” at 4 on Monday, November 10, at Northwestern University’s McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Drive, Evanston, 847-491-5401. At 7 the same day he’ll take part in Columbia College’s Creative Nonfiction Week, Columbia College, Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan, 312-344-8118. On Wednesday, November 12, he’ll read from and sign copies of Mountains Beyond Mountains at Borders Books and Music, 1144 Lake, Oak Park, 708-848-9140.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jose Ramon Garcia.