Captivating medical narratives that fit well alongside those of Oliver Sachs, Atul Gawande, Jerome Groopman, and Berton...

SHAPESHIFTERS

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE CHANGING HUMAN BODY

A physician/writer celebrates the dynamism and transformation of the human body and life.

Francis (Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum, 2015, etc.), who regularly contributes to the London Review of Books and the Guardian, brings well-honed knowledge to these short chapters on the perpetual metamorphosis of the human body. What makes the book fun to read is not only the author’s limpid anecdotes, but also his abiding marvel at the body’s endless expressions. Francis ranges freely and skillfully from the strange to the elemental, such as pregnancy, “a primitive reminder that [the body’s] changes are often beyond control; that bodies have their own rhythms, waypoints and fixed destinations.” The author also explores the body’s acts: sleep, for example, during which vital cerebral hygiene is at stake, and dreaming, which tends to our restless minds and “transforms our fear, shame and dark ambitions into…narratives.” Francis is clearly drawn to curiosities, but he never makes them seem freakish—nor is he judgmental, but rather colorfully frank: Think steroids are the only road to a fine physique? Consider the risks of diabetes, infertility, depression, uncontainable bouts of rage, and wicked acne. These chapters can easily be read as stand-alones—the chapter on jetlag is followed by one on ancient and modern bone-setting techniques—but it’s also satisfying to binge-read a number of them at once. While it might be disappointing to read that “we don’t have much idea as to why we laugh”; appalling to consider that late-19th-century Vatican officials were still castrating young boys for its choir; and infuriating to read that the return of tuberculosis is a direct result of poverty, as are so many other maladies, Francis always makes you think.

Captivating medical narratives that fit well alongside those of Oliver Sachs, Atul Gawande, Jerome Groopman, and Berton Roueché.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9752-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

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

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