As Shepard points out, these letters reflect the actual thoughts and feelings of Joe and Alice at the time the letters were written, “unlike oral histories where imperfect memories can affect the recall of past events.”
It feels like heady company to be in this publication (Fall 2013, page 31). Other books reviewed are from Johns Hopkins University and University of Rochester presses, among others. Here are a few of the titles:
- Barefoot Doctors and Western Medicine in China
- Broken Hearts: The Tangled History of Cardiac Care
- The Inevitable Hour: A History of Caring for Dying Patients in America
- Influenza: A Century of Science and Public Health
- A History of Organ Transplantation: Ancient Legends to Modern Practice
But the one that really gats my attention is Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers (St. Martin’s Press). The author, John J. Ross, is a physician from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He looks at stories surrounding the lives of William Shakespeare, John Milton, Jonathan Swift, the Brontë family, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, William Butler Yeats, Jack London, James Joyce, and George Orwell. “Using extant documents (in the case of Yeats, the author was given access to his original fever charts), Dr. Ross analyzes the authors’ lives to try to determine possible causes of their illnesses and their deaths.” Hmmm … mental disorders and venereal diseases play a big role in the suppositions, but there’s little evidence in most cases, according to the reviewer.