by Patrick Dillon ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 1, 2003
Every duck associated with the gin craze—lord, merchant, magistrate, family-values careerist, commoner, reformer, sot—is...
From English historian, architect, and novelist Dillon, an admirable history of the London gin craze that tainted everyone involved.
When William of Orange took the throne from James Stuart in the Glorious Revolution, things French and Catholic got their walking papers—among them brandy—and things Dutch were welcomed—among them gin. That clear, juniper-scented distillate took London by storm. Already pummeled by its political transformation, London was also “neurotic and violent,” racked by great population growth, high and wild with gambling, stock-jobbing, debt-running, gangs, and prostitution. Gin was fuel to all these woes, but, to Dillon’s way of thinking, it also served to put a balm on all the uncertainty and risk of the times: it made life more palatable for those in a state of struggle even as it lined the pockets of land owners and the distillers. And it came, too, to line the pockets of corrupt excisemen, informers, and—for Madam Geneva had friends in high places—politicians themselves once the gin acts were instituted in a doomed and eerily familiar effort to exert control. Dillon ably brings into the picture what the writers of the times had to offer, from Smollet to Defoe to Fielding; the role of class distinction in gin’s rise and fall; the effects of the middle class and materialism on the drink; and the part Mother Nature played via harvest failures. He lauds the pragmatism of repealing the gin acts and draws the obvious parallels between those acts and our own war on drugs, which by the 1980s “was no longer about the social causes of drug abuse, nor about the safety of users. It was about enforcement.”Every duck associated with the gin craze—lord, merchant, magistrate, family-values careerist, commoner, reformer, sot—is crisply lined up and then bowled over for the benefit of the self-righteousness, self-service, and self-destruction. (For another history of this “craze,” see Jessica Warner’s Craze.) (8 b&w illustrations)
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Justin, Charles
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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