DEMOCRACY AND DNA

AMERICAN DREAMS AND MEDICAL PROGRESS

Physician Weissmann (The Doctor with Two Heads, 1990, etc.) takes on the role of social historian in this rather disjointed exploration of the philosophical roots of molecular biology. As Weissmann sees it, those roots lie in meliorism, the belief that when reason is applied to human actions, the social order can be improved. Claiming as his model Oliver Wendell Holmes's The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table and relying heavily on quotes from the literature of the times, Weissmann offers a series of bookish essays that meander selectively through the meliorist tradition from the Flowering of New England to today's ``Flowering of DNA.'' Katherine Lee Bates, social reformer and author of America the Beautiful, Dr. Holmes, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, editor and writer Margaret Fuller, and others, are seen as links in a chain leading from 19th-century abolitionists and sanitarians to today's molecular biologists. Parallels are drawn between New York City's Central Park and its new Bellevue Hospital: The park was created in the mid-19th century by the US Sanitary Commission, a group of reformist doctors, theologians, and laymen bent on preventing disease by bringing clean water, fresh air, and open space to the crowded city. The hospital was built in the 1970s by such modern-day meliorists as mayors Robert Wagner and John Lindsay, and Dr. Lewis Thomas, committed to conquering disease and treating the poor. *linespacing 2* *linespacing 1* Weissmann has little patience for critics of meliorism or for defenders of homeopathy or other New Age remedies. Progress, he argues, has been made not by shamans but by scientific medicine fueled by the spirit of meliorist reform. In the end, the author asserts rather than demonstrates the influence of meliorism on those doing DNA research today. Weissmann labels Dr. Holmes's Breakfast Table essays ``the unstructured products of a magpie mind.'' The same might be said of the present work, which, however, is not likely to establish its author's literary reputation.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8090-9305-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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