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PASSIONS BETWEEN WOMEN

BRITISH LESBIAN CULTURE 1668-1801

An impressive piece of scholarship that seeks to bring passion into the lesbian history of late 17th and 18th century England. Closely reading the literature of the period, novelist Donoghue (Stir-Fry, 1994) gives her reader meticulously detailed evidence that during the years 16681801 lesbianism was popularly represented. Contrary to historians who have a tendency to dilute and dismiss bonds between women as sisterly affection, Donoghue asserts that women who loved women during the 18th century did not only have friendship on their minds. While the word lesbian could be used in the context of friendship, the term ``tribade'' (from Greek, meaning ``a woman who rubs'') was most commonly used to describe any woman capable of enjoying sex with another. With chapters on female hermaphrodites, female husbands, cross-dressing, romantic friendship, and erotica, Donoghue explores a range of female relationships from the platonic to the sexual. She does not shy away from the controversial when she examines the erotica of the time (almost exclusively written by men) and gains affirmation from the lesbian eroticism found in a literature other feminists might deem offensive. A lesbian herself, Donoghue's investment in her own text makes it all the more engaging. She deserves credit for making a distinction between lesbian and bisexual history and explicitly states that her book is a ``shared'' one. She also does well to emphasize that gay male history and lesbian history should be studied separately. While her prose is crisp and sometimes refreshingly ironic, Donoghue falls into the academic trap of overloading her reader with exhaustive textual examples. At times slow going, but nonetheless offering historical affirmation of an erotic and romantic lesbian presence during this period.

Pub Date: May 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-017261-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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