A seasoned, filigreed history of malaria and its treatment.
Malaria is still one of the great scourges, turning the blood to sludge, blackening the liver and spleen: “Malaria is so common, and so deadly, that the WHO estimates one person dies of it every fifteen seconds. . . . Yet the mosquito that carries it is little larger than an eyelash.” Economist literary editor Rocco describes—in fine writing that speaks both of personal experience and well-edited research—the nature of the disease, its spread from place to place, how two missionaries working in Peru learned of the bark that cured the shivering disease, how seedlings were smuggled out of the country to a British plantation in the Nilgiri Hills of southwest India, and how the European pharmacopoeia evolved, with its tapping of drugs and chemicals from colonial and missionary outposts. But what keeps the engine of the narrative moving is the ever-present understanding that “political rivalry, religious pressure, scientific one-upmanship and petty human jealousy all had a part to play in the quest for the magical tree that produced the Jesuit powder that cured the ague.” Rocco is an adept in the medical detective story, in the tradition of Berton Rouché, detailing the work of Ronald Ross, Patrick Manson, and W.G. MacCullum as they seek to unravel the source of the parasite. Then there is the subtext, which Rocco exploits with care, that malaria served as a brake to colonialism, proselytism, and their fellow traveler, war: that commerce and religion would not be able to level all in their path. This is also a cautionary tale on the pillage of natural resources, nurtured by the Jesuits, then heedlessly harvested by bark hunters.
Snappy and sharp, picaresque but scholarly: it’s almost a crime that so heinous a disease should be treated to so grand a biography. (16-page b&w photo insert, not seen)
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").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)