A capable, readable account of a medical mystery.




The engaging story of the outbreak of a bizarre disease.

In 1917, a young neurologist named Dr. Constantin von Economo was faced with a sudden influx of unusual patients at a clinic in Vienna, Austria. They exhibited a bizarre array of symptoms, including uncontrollable blinking, twitching, salivating or other tics—or even psychotic behavior. Others were locked in a catatonic state. All the patients had one symptom in common—difficulty staying awake. Indeed, some patients fell deeply asleep and never woke up. Autopsies showed that patients had swelling in the section of the brain that controls sleep. Von Economo identified the disease, which became known as encephalitis lethargica—sleeping sickness—but neither he nor anyone else could pinpoint what was causing it. It became a worldwide epidemic during the next few years, affecting millions—but after 1927, the epidemic tapered off, and new cases became rare. Crosby (The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History, 2006) relates the history of encephalitis lethargica by using several case studies. They range from a New York girl who had violent seizures and then fell into a sleep from which she never awoke, to a woman whose disease drove her to grotesque self-harm—including tearing out her own eyes. Some of the catatonic victims of the disease became the subject of Oliver Sacks’s book Awakenings (1973) which was later made into a film. Crosby is a fine storyteller, peppering her case studies with facts about the history of neurology and details about 1910s New York. She also provides fully realized portraits of not only her case studies’ patients, but also the brilliant doctors who treated them, such as Frederick Tilney, a neurologist who later gained fame for his study of Helen Keller, and Josephine B. Neal, a rare female bacteriologist, neurologist and encephalitis expert in a male-dominated profession. Crosby also provides the latest theories of the causes of this strange disease, the origins of which are still elusive.

A capable, readable account of a medical mystery.

Pub Date: March 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-425-22570-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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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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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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