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A stimulating account of how medicine advanced by getting physical.

Awards & Accolades

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Modern medicine’s focus on the mechanics of disease to the exclusion of the emotional and spiritual dimensions of illness and healing remains both its greatest strength and a growing weakness, according to this historical study.

Kurapati (Unbound Intelligence, 2014), a doctor, frames his discussion with his patients’ persistent questions about the meaning of their suffering and frustration at physicians who view them as assemblages of malfunctioning organs rather than whole human beings. He examines the centurieslong development of that mechanistic mindset. Ancient medicine, he argues, was a deeply religious and philosophical enterprise: healers, who were often priests, attributed disease to divine (or demonic) intervention or explained it in terms of a whole-life balance of elements and energy flows. Unfortunately, while these systems comforted the sick and embedded their anguish in a meaningful worldview, they hardened into unverified dogmas that seldom healed patients physically and sometimes, as in the practice of bloodletting, hurt them badly. That all changed starting in the Renaissance: an understanding of the body as a machine with a blood-pump at its center took hold; empirical observation began to eclipse received wisdom; dissection and new scientific instruments revealed hidden structures and processes in the body; and controlled experiments and statistical analysis made objective verification the gold standard in medical practice. Kurapati’s loose-limbed, erudite, but accessible exploration of this history ranges back to ancient Greece, India, and China and forward to the latest trends in robotic surgery and implanted sensors. He leavens the narrative with vignettes from his own clinical experiences, which are vividly observed—during his first Code Blue resuscitation, “in the farthest corner of the room, medical students huddled among the comfort of their clan”—and deftly illustrate his scholarly themes. (He notes how the dissection of cadavers in medical school inculcated in him a callousness and detachment that enable a dispassionate clinical attitude.) His case that scientific “dehumanization” is a serious drawback in modern medicine is not as strong as his argument that it was an indispensable breakthrough: as one of his illuminating anecdotes shows, a good hospital chaplain works wonders at salving a patient’s despairing soul, letting the doctors deal with patching the body.

A stimulating account of how medicine advanced by getting physical.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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