In interest of sparing the flist, I'm posting two reviews togetherThe Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History
by John Barry
This is a wonderful book is so many ways, detailing vast amounts of information. It's had tons of reveiws on Amazon, so let me just add my two cents here, and keep it mininal.Influenza is bloody terrifying.
This books sheds light on that in so many ways, starting with the way influenza mutates and following with the tragedy it can leave behind. Particularly gruesome were the accounts of this epidemic's assault on military cantonments, where healthy young men in crowded conditions became the perfect food for the virus. The books tells of thousands of men in hospital there, so many that the few nurses had no time to clean them or even remove the dead.....and the doctors and nurses were dying themselves. The death rates were terrifying, particularly since this particular mutation killed the young and healthy. The hardest hit age group was 25-29.....leaving behind thousands of orphans in the US alone.
Particularly interesting to me was the brief discussion of the psychological aftereffects of this epidemic: In adition to the more-predictable exhaustion, survivors have a much higher rate of Parkinson's and schizophrenia. (It has been established that women who contract influenza in the 2nd (or is it 1st?) trimester of their pregnancy have a much higher chance of having a child with schizophrenia. I read about this in Genome
, I believe.) I find it a bit terrifying that you could come out of this illness with your brain chemistry altered. Yeesh!
I will note that the book had one failing for me, that I will call Grandpa Simpsonism.
You know that scene where he goes off on "I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the fashion at the time...."? This book does that...a lot. There are endless asides about one person's medical career or another, and the first 166 pages of the book seem to be a paean to the head of Johns Hopkins at the time of the epidemic....who didn't actually do much about the epidemic as he was sick with flu for the bulk of that time. I haz resurch, can I show you it? All of it?
. This book could have given me the pertinent information in 1/3 the number of pages. I'm impatient.Garbage in the Cities
by Martin Melosi
This is the other end of the spectrum, where the author gives you statistics, charts, and hard numbers. Yep, right up my alley. This author, who has written more books on this subject, goes through the basic ways municipalities handled garbage, sewage, and rubbish.
A pet peeve of mine is that so many people who write about the past forget to include the trash...or more importantly, the manure and sewage. Street sweeping and garbage collection, which Dickens often reminded us about (think Our Mutual Friend
or Bleak House
, for instance), are oddly dismissed by many authors who write about the past.
Cities that depended on the horse, however, for transportation and hauling, had two huge issues.
1) Manure in the streets (hence the street sweepers). Tons were removed daily, and in many cities simply dumped downstream or into the ocean.
2) Dead horses. Yep, that's what I said. Statistically, a city horse at the turn of the century had a !2-year lifespan
!, (which I find incredibly depressing). In 1910, Manhattan sanitation removed 15,000 dead horses from the streets. By 1915, even with the increased presence of the oh-so-clean automobile, they were still removing 10,000 a year. So depressing.
I will say that this book, despite having some less than happy info in it, provided exactly what I was looking for.
A final note. displacedtexan
read Life in a Medieval Castle
and The World Without Us
for me, and marked the sections I would be interested in, although he says I won't want to read the full books, so no reports on those two. I'll read the bits I need and move on to Crashing Through