KNOTTED TONGUES

STUTTERING IN HISTORY AND THE QUEST FOR A CURE

A surprisingly entertaining essay on stuttering, chock full of hey-listen-to-this and did-you-ever-know-that anecdotes, plus, for sufferers, an account of a therapy that worked for the author. A stutterer from the age of seven, Bobrick (East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia, 1992) uses his considerable research skills to shed light on this mysterious ailment, which afflicts 55 million people worldwide. The story of how Greek orator Demosthenes worked to overcome stuttering by shouting over the roar of the waves with a mouthful of pebbles is well-known, but Bobrick has dozens of others about notable stutterers—Moses, Claudius, Robert Boyle, Cotton Mather, Lewis Carroll, Somerset Maugham, English kings Charles I and George VI, and Winston Churchill, among others—and how they coped. He describes some of many psychoanalytic theories that attempted to explain stuttering and some of the astonishing therapies that sought to cure it (nosedrops, purgatives, gargling with breast milk, wrapping the tongue in little towels soaked in lettuce juice), and a host of surgeries (most frequently on the tongue, but also on the skull, the adenoids, and even the coccyx). Effective therapy, however, awaited a more complete understanding of neurophysiology, and in his final chapter, Bobrick concentrates on the work of Ronald Webster, an experimental psychologist who concluded that stuttering is a motor-control disorder based on a defect in the auditory feedback loop and developed an effective program to treat it. Eight years ago Bobrick enrolled in a program based on Webster's work, and has ``seldom stuttered since.'' No knots in this author's tongue. If the book has a weakness, it's the final chapter on current understanding and treatment of stuttering: a touch lackluster compared with the lively and amusing history that precedes it.

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-671-87103-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

A SHORT GUIDE TO A LONG LIFE

In a follow-up to The End of Illness (2012), which explored how technological advances will transform medicine, Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) restates time-tested but too often overlooked principles for healthy living.

The author outlines simple measures that average citizens can take to live healthier lives and extend their life spans by taking advantage of modern technology to develop personalized records. These would include a list of medical tests and recommended treatments. Agus also suggests keeping track of indicators that can be observed at home on a regular basis—e.g., changes in energy, weight, appetite and blood pressure, blood sugar and general appearance. He advises that all of this information be made available online, and it is also helpful to investigate family history and consider DNA testing where indicated. Along with maintaining a healthy weight, Agus emphasizes the importance of eating a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and a minimum of red meat. Avoid packaged vitamins and food supplements, and if possible, grow your own vegetables or buy frozen vegetables, which will generally be fresher than those on supermarket shelves. The author also warns against processed foods that make health claims but contain additives or excessive amounts of sugar or fat. Regular mealtimes and plenty of sleep, frequent hand-washing and oral hygiene are a must; smoking and excessive time in the sun should also be avoided. Agus recommends that adults should consider taking statins and baby aspirin as preventative measures. He concludes with a decade-by-decade checklist of annual medical examinations that should be routine—e.g. blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, from one’s 20s on; colonoscopies, prostate exams and mammograms later—and a variety of top-10 lists (for example, “Top 10 Reasons to Take a Walk”).

Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3095-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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