Pox is free of judgment, but the reader can’t help but feel that safe sex never seemed a better idea. (Illustrations)



The Great Pox, commonly known as the clap, is given a clinical but—how could it be otherwise?—morbidly fascinating historical profile by independent scholar Hayden, who proceeds to do some medical detective work in identifying famous people who may have carried the spirochete to their graves.

The nasty little parasite entered the history books, Hayden conjectures (with evidence), when Columbus returned from the New World and launched the European syphilis epidemic of 1493. (The lepers thought the syphilitics smelled so bad they wouldn’t have them in their neighborhoods.) Left untreated, as it essentially was until penicillin, syphilis is a chronic, inflammatory, relapsing disease that goes into hiding throughout the body—brain, eyes, temporal arteries—after the initial sores disappear. It then reasserts itself by delivering severe headaches and gastrointestinal pains, blindness and deafness, paralysis, and insanity, yet sometimes also ecstasy and fierce creativity. Hayden traces attempts to counteract the disease—which, since methods included dousing with mercury, arsenic, and bismuth, were equally terrible (and ineffective)—in a voice both serious and wonderfully understated: one of the “warning signs” of tertiary syphilis, she explains, is the sensation of being serenaded by angels. After the cultural and medical groundwork has been laid, Hayden asks “delicate questions” about a number of historical figures. She examines the possibility that Beethoven and van Gogh were victims—possible cases that are hotly contested. It would be a miracle if Flaubert didn't have syphilis, and in Oscar Wilde’s case, he said and did so many bizarre things that’s it’s hard to judge. Hayden presents the facts and lets the readers decide whether Nietzsche, Baronness Blixen, Schubert, Baudelaire, and Hitler may have been candidates.

Pox is free of judgment, but the reader can’t help but feel that safe sex never seemed a better idea. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-465-02881-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?


From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

Did you like this book?