Pox: Genius, Madness, And The Mysteries Of Syphilis

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9780465028825: Pox: Genius, Madness, And The Mysteries Of Syphilis

From Beethoven to Oscar Wilde, from Van Gogh to Hitler, Deborah Hayden throws new light on the effects of syphilis on the lives and works of seminal figures from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries.Writing with remarkable insight and narrative flair, Hayden argues that biographers and historians have vastly underestimated the influence of what Thomas Mann called "this exhilarating yet wasting disease." Shrouded in secrecy, syphilis was accompanied by wild euphoria and suicidal depression, megalomania and paranoia, profoundly affecting sufferers' worldview, their sexual behavior, and their art. Deeply informed and courageously argued, Pox has been heralded as a major contribution to our understanding of genius, madness, and creativity.

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About the Author:

Deborah Hayden, an independent scholar and marketing executive, has lectured on syphilis and creativity, most recently at UCSF Medical School, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Bay Area History of Medicine Society. She lives in Mill Valley, California.

From The New England Journal of Medicine:

Deborah Hayden's Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis is the biography of an infection that has fascinated and frustrated clinicians for more than half a millennium. The book is a repository of all that had been forgotten about a sinister bacterium and the disease that was its legacy. It is also a compendium of what Hayden refers to as the "veiled revelation" of syphilis that can be found in the intimate details of the lives of famous people if one searches with sufficient determination and vigor. Most of all, the book provides fodder for the imagination. Envision a book, written by the owner of a direct-marketing firm, about the history, microbiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of one of humankind's most enigmatic disorders. The author has no formal medical training but has gleaned sufficient expertise in syphilology from lavishly illustrated 19th-century and early-20th-century medical books "written in language remarkably accessible to the layperson" to qualify her to lecture clinicians and peer-reviewed medical journals about what she calls "faulty assumptions about a disease no longer familiar in clinical practice." Imagine that same authority examining the case histories of scores of illustrious personalities through "the selective lens of a possible diagnosis of syphilis" and, time and again, finding evidence of the one disease she knows in depth. Imagine a concept that Hayden calls "creative euphoria," whereby "the syphilitic was often rewarded, in a kind of Faustian bargain for enduring the pain and despair, by . . . electrified, joyous energy when grandiosity led to new vision." Beethoven had it. Guy de Maupassant did too. In fact, Hayden says that "Maupassant's literary leap from mediocrity in 1876 to the supreme mastery of the short story in 1880 might have been the result of a tremendous stimulation of the brain cells" by what biographer Robert Sherard refers to as "myriads of spiral-shaped germs darting to and fro." Because Vincent van Gogh committed suicide, says Hayden, we do not know whether he experienced "the ecstasy and the misery of the stage that precedes paresis when he painted with such intensity in the last months of his life." One must wonder whether Michelangelo's agony and ecstasy represent another example of creative euphoria. Friedrich Nietzsche's syphilis has yet to be confirmed under "the selective lens of presumptive diagnosis," says Hayden. However, the books about syphilis that Hayden relied on to write Pox tell us, she says, "that the last expressions of sanity before paretic dementia sets in can be characterized by mystical vision, messianic prophecy, grandiose self-definition, clarity of expression, and extreme disinhibition, while all the time maintaining exquisite precision of form." Could one ask for a better description of Nietzsche's later works? Oscar Wilde seems to have been denied the benefit of syphilitic euphoria, most likely, Hayden says, because it was "effectively doused by a liter of brandy a day." But not Karen Blixen, who wrote Seven Gothic Tales, Winter's Tales, and Out of Africa under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen. Syphilis, she maintained, sold her soul to the devil for the ability to tell stories. Now imagine a pale, fragile bacterium that can dictate why great people do what they do, thereby determining the course of world events. That bacterium may have caused Flaubert to become a writer instead of a lawyer and Hitler to accelerate his war effort beyond reason at the end, for fear that his heart might at any moment balloon with a fatal luetic aneurysm. Finally, imagine a book dedicated to bringing syphilis in from the wings of biography, a book in which evidence obtained from fourthhand accounts, legend, and works of fiction is piled so high on the side of the great pox that even a negative Wassermann test cannot tip the balance in favor of some other disorder. Imagine how difficult it must be to diagnose in a patient a disease other than the "Great Imitator" if it is the only disease you know. For if your foremost assets as a self-made syphilologist are zeal, passion, and persistence in the pursuit of an illness that defies diagnosis at every stage, you are bound to find syphilis wherever you look: in Baudelaire, Schubert, Schumann, Joyce, Columbus, Daudet, Poe, Gaugin, Churchill (Randolph), Al Capone, Ivan the Terrible, Manet, Idi Amin, Darwin, Donizetti, Dostoyevsky, Lenin, Meriwether Lewis, Mozart, Robert Mugabe, Napoleon, Paganini, Rabelais, Stalin, Tolstoy, and Woodrow Wilson. You will see it in any idiosyncracy -- Mary Todd Lincoln's shopping compulsion and Honest Abe's melancholia and hypochondriasis -- and in any poor, departed soul whose death has generated even a hint of diagnostic confusion. If you can imagine those things, then you have an idea of what awaits you in Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis. Exotic flowers of speculation bloom luxuriantly here. If Oscar Wilde was correct when he said that "history is merely gossip," then Pox is history at its best. Philip A. Mackowiak, M.D.
Copyright © 2003 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS.

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Descripción INGRAM PUBLISHER SERVICES US, United States, 2003. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. From Beethoven to Oscar Wilde, from Van Gogh to Hitler, Deborah Hayden throws new light on the effects of syphilis on the lives and works of seminal figures from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries.Writing with remarkable insight and narrative flair, Hayden argues that biographers and historians have vastly underestimated the influence of what Thomas Mann called this exhilarating yet wasting disease. Shrouded in secrecy, syphilis was accompanied by wild euphoria and suicidal depression, megalomania and paranoia, profoundly affecting sufferers worldview, their sexual behaviour, and their art. Deeply informed and courageously argued, Pox has been heralded as a major contribution to our understanding of genius, madness, and creativity. Nº de ref. de la librería AA29780465028825

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Descripción INGRAM PUBLISHER SERVICES US, United States, 2003. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. From Beethoven to Oscar Wilde, from Van Gogh to Hitler, Deborah Hayden throws new light on the effects of syphilis on the lives and works of seminal figures from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries.Writing with remarkable insight and narrative flair, Hayden argues that biographers and historians have vastly underestimated the influence of what Thomas Mann called this exhilarating yet wasting disease. Shrouded in secrecy, syphilis was accompanied by wild euphoria and suicidal depression, megalomania and paranoia, profoundly affecting sufferers worldview, their sexual behaviour, and their art. Deeply informed and courageously argued, Pox has been heralded as a major contribution to our understanding of genius, madness, and creativity. Nº de ref. de la librería AA29780465028825

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Descripción INGRAM PUBLISHER SERVICES US, United States, 2003. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. From Beethoven to Oscar Wilde, from Van Gogh to Hitler, Deborah Hayden throws new light on the effects of syphilis on the lives and works of seminal figures from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries.Writing with remarkable insight and narrative flair, Hayden argues that biographers and historians have vastly underestimated the influence of what Thomas Mann called this exhilarating yet wasting disease. Shrouded in secrecy, syphilis was accompanied by wild euphoria and suicidal depression, megalomania and paranoia, profoundly affecting sufferers worldview, their sexual behaviour, and their art. Deeply informed and courageously argued, Pox has been heralded as a major contribution to our understanding of genius, madness, and creativity. Nº de ref. de la librería BZE9780465028825

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Descripción The Perseus Books Group, 2003. Estado de conservación: New. "How a transmittable little bacterium with a twisting propellant tail.deeply affected.mankind's perception of itself."Anthony Day, Los Angeles Times Num Pages: 400 pages, Illustrations. BIC Classification: MBX; MJCJ1. Category: (G) General (US: Trade); (P) Professional & Vocational; (U) Tertiary Education (US: College). Dimension: 203 x 130 x 25. Weight in Grams: 476. . 2003. Reprint. Paperback. . . . . . Nº de ref. de la librería V9780465028825

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