Conclusion: an unproven but undoubtedly provocative case. Expect dissent and discussion.



A pitch for infections as a major cause of mental illness, arguing for a paradigm shift from mainstream psychiatric doctrine.

Journalist Washington (Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself—And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future, 2011, etc.) champions the work of E. Fuller Torrey and colleagues. As a young man, Torrey was appalled when his sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia attributed to “family problems.” It was a time when “schizophrenogenic mothers” were all the fashion. Torrey became a psychiatrist and started his infection-oriented research. It’s unquestionable that some severe mental illness is rooted in infections—e.g., syphilis, rabies, Sydenham’s chorea, the World War I flu that led to encephalitis lethargica, and, more recently, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and mad cow disease. However, Torrey and his colleagues see infectious causality in a much wider variety of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome, autism, and anorexia. The evidence is scant, largely based on association studies such as finding evidence of infections in blood or spinal fluid or a seasonal increase in some disorders that could be a sign of a viral infection. Furthermore, conjecture abounds. Do children really pick up the parasite Toxoplasma gondii from cat urine in park sandboxes and later develop schizophrenia? For all that infections are touted, researchers cite genetics, stress, and trauma as making a difference in whether disease will manifest. A better case is made regarding strep throat, after which a few children develop OCD seemingly overnight. In a small study, their symptoms were reversed when their blood was filtered to remove strep antibodies. In making the infectious pitch, Washington rightly argues that it strengthens the case for abandoning the Cartesian dualism that separates mind from body and leads to stigma and fear. It’s acceptable to study how infection and immunity affect the brain, but only as part of a larger agenda to understand the brain in all its plasticity and complexity.

Conclusion: an unproven but undoubtedly provocative case. Expect dissent and discussion.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-27780-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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