THE GOSPEL OF GERMS

MEN, WOMEN, AND THE MICROBE IN AMERICAN LIFE

How Americans became aware of the existence of germs and how this awareness impacted their everyday lives is told in this illuminating medical/social history. Tomes (History/SUNY, Stony Brook) looks at how the germ theory, first articulated around 1870 meshed with prior theories about the spread of disease. Proponents of the new “gospel of germs” were able to build on the traditional methods of preventing disease advocated by earlier sanitarians: disinfection, water purification, plumbing, and ventilation. Around the turn of the century, attention shifted from sewer gas, contaminated water, and household dirt to other means by which germs are spread, such as coughing, sneezing, and sharing drinking cups. Tomes reveals how the antituberculosis crusade and the domestic-science movement educated Americans about dealing with these hazards; and by using trade journals, advertisements, and patent applications the author shows how entrepreneurs exploited the fear of germs to promote a host of new goods and services. Shorter skirts for women, vacuum cleaners, window screens, white-tiled bathrooms, refrigerators, paper cups, cellophane packaging—all trace their origins to the desire to create a disease-free environment. The author also illustrates how disease awareness can be a two-edged sword, stirring fear of those groups—immigrants, minorities’suspected of carrying disease and at the same time providing the impetus for improving their living and working conditions. The advent of antibiotics, however, gave rise to a generation confident of having won the war against infectious disease. As Tomes points out, that confidence is waning with threats such as HIV and other viruses, the re-emergence of killer tuberculosis, and the growing resistance of common microorganisms to once-powerful antibiotics; thus the study of the gospel of germs seems especially relevant today. Full of fascinating details of daily life, although there’s probably more about bathroom plumbing and toilets than most people ever wanted to know. (18 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 7, 1998

ISBN: 0-674-35707-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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