Medical melodrama will always be a TV staple, but this searing tour of duty suggests that an EMS docudrama would never work:...

INTO THE BREACH

A YEAR OF LIFE AND DEATH WITH THE EMS

A disturbing descent into the maelstrom of city life with a New Jersey EMS team.

“Coming upon decapitations, hemicorporectomies (bodies torn in half), suicides, child abuse, miscarriages, and other troubling scenes is stressful,” remarks journalist Karam with stunning understatement. For more than two years, she worked with an emergency medical service unit operating out of University Hospital in Newark, a municipality particularly rich in urban malfunctions thanks to its extreme poverty and severely overused road system. Karam shadowed several teams in a unit divided among BLS (basic life support), ALS (advanced life support), Rescue, and Dispatch. Her method is to accumulate anecdotes, which over time add up to character profiles of her EMS team members. It’s character, as much as equipment and skill, that keeps this service going. Here’s a typical start for BLS partners Benny Cardona and Vince Callahan: their evening “warms up with a feverish, sexually active woman with AIDS and severe stomach cramps; a psychotic middle-aged man who tried to ‘stick up’ the Cozy Corner bar with a ‘stick’; and a middle-aged diabetic man vomiting blood.” Excretions of all kinds are par for the course. “Blue-shirts” inch into incredibly squalid living quarters, moderate the continual drama of sex, violence, and intoxication (by alcohol, heroin, bug spray, etc.), and try to remember why they are doing this. It isn’t unusual for a BLS unit to haul a 300-pound emergency case down four or five flights of rickety stairs, while trying to keep control of 60 pounds of equipment. Towards the end, the anecdotes prove too much of a good thing, crushing Karam’s more general portrait of how the medical and security infrastructure functions in a large city.

Medical melodrama will always be a TV staple, but this searing tour of duty suggests that an EMS docudrama would never work: few could bear so much reality.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-30617-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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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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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

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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