No dull required course here—a vivid tale populated with flesh-and-blood characters, from the two Henrys to the cadavers...

THE ANATOMIST

A TRUE STORY OF GRAY’S ANATOMY

Science writer Hayes (Five Quarts: A Personal and Natural History of Blood, 2005, etc.) combines a you-are-there account with interesting biographical details about the men who put the human body on the map.

The map is Gray’s Anatomy, the reference work, originally titled Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical, used by generations of medical students since its first edition was published in 1858. Curious to know more about the brilliant teacher who had the revolutionary idea of writing an anatomy text to assist surgeons, the author learned that there wasn’t much to tell: Henry Gray died young and horribly of smallpox. The meticulous illustrator of Gray’s text, however, had a long, extraordinary life, and Hayes found a trove of diaries and letters to flesh it out. Henry Vandyke Carter, a few years younger than Gray, was a diffident figure, confident in his drawing skills but given to dark moods, self-blame and anxieties about religious faith. Nevertheless, the two Henrys worked well together and produced to glowing acclaim a revolutionary volume. Gray did well financially, but many of Carter’s duties were unpaid. He finally moved to Bombay, where he conducted research, taught anatomy and practiced medicine. His exemplary career was blighted by a scandalous love affair with a woman who bore him a child. Hayes unfolds a Hollywood-like plot, complete with a (sort-of) happy ending. Interspersed with this story, the author relates his personal experiences in gross-anatomy classes, conveying a sense of wonder at the beauty and complexity of the human body and the evolutionary compromises that have shaped it.

No dull required course here—a vivid tale populated with flesh-and-blood characters, from the two Henrys to the cadavers themselves.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-345-45689-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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