A well-researched history of Reye’s syndrome that explores how science, medicine and politics interact.
Largent (Associate Dean/Lyman Briggs Coll. at Michigan State Univ.; Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America, 2012), a childhood survivor of Reye’s syndrome and currently a historian of science, tackles a malady that is still not well-understood. Named for the Australian physician who described it in the 1950s, the syndrome was at first thought to be caused by aflatoxins, then by ingredients in a pesticide, and then, in 1980, by aspirin. Largent relates each of these stories of searches for a cause, focusing mainly on aspirin. There is a brief chapter on therapies developed to treat Reye’s, which was often fatal or left survivors with severe disabilities, but the author’s primary concern is not treatment approaches but rather the long controversy over its link to aspirin. As Largent examines the dispute over whether to require warning labels on bottles of aspirin, he also scrutinizes the actions and interactions—some might say the machinations—of pharmaceutical companies, consumer rights groups, epidemiologists, public health officials, courts and the U.S. Congress. In 1985, the Department of Health and Human Services ordered that warnings about Reye’s syndrome appear on all bottles of aspirin sold in the United States, giving advocates of this measure the opportunity to create a narrative about the triumph of science over big pharma. However, as Largent points out, uncertainty remains. The incidence of Reye’s declined sharply in the 1980s and then virtually disappeared, leaving scientists without cases to investigate to determine whether aspirin was indeed the culprit. The author’s take-home message is that despite all the earnest efforts, sometimes there are no final answers.
A revealing work that validates the statement that watching policy being made is like watching sausage being made—not a sight for the squeamish.
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)
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").