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Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virusby Bill Wasik
Synopses & Reviews
An engrossing and lively history of the fearsome and mythologized virus
In the tradition of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Great Influenza, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies. In the absence of vaccination— as was true for thousands of years, until the late nineteenth century—the rabies virus caused brain infections with a nearly 100 percent fatality rate, both in animals and humans, and the suffering it inflicted became the stuff of legend.
The transmission of the virus—often from rabid dog to man—reawakened a primal fear of wild animals, and the illness’s violent symptoms spoke directly to mankind’s fear of the beast within. The cultural response was to create fictional embodiments of those anxieties—ravenous wolfmen, bloodsucking vampires, and armies of mindless zombies.
From the myth of Actaeon to Saint Hubert, from the laboratories of the heroic and pioneering Louis Pasteur to a journalistic investigation into the madness that has gripped modern Bali, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of the world’s most misunderstood viruses.
"Rabies has not only wreaked havoc for 4,000 years on man and his best friend but also mirrors the history of medicine while generating vampire images that still frighten and fascinate us. In this ambitious and smart history of the virus, Wired senior editor Waski (And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture) and public health and veterinary expert Murphy (who are husband and wife) start with the Greeks and their love-hate relationship with their hounds, move to the Middle Ages — when Islamic scholars made the first real advances in understanding the disease — and barrel through to the revolutionary 'germ theory' discoveries of the late 19th century. The authors track how science tried to tame the scourge, with its ravaging neurological effects. Yet the rare tales of modern survivors only underscore that, despite the existence of treatment through a series of injections, we're at a stalemate in conquering rabies. Look for delightful detours into cultural manifestations of our fear of rabies, including a survey of vampire, werewolf, and zombie literature and films — from Charlotte BrontÃ« to Anne Rice, and right up to the Twilight series. Agent: Tina Bennett, Janklow & Nesbit. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An engrossing, lively history of a fearsome and misunderstood virus that binds man and dog
The most fatal virus known to science, rabies—a disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans—kills nearly one hundred percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. In this critically acclaimed exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years of the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies. From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh and often wildly entertaining look at one of humankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.
A maddened creature, frothing at the mouth, lunges at an innocent victim—and, with a bite, transforms its prey into another raving monster. It’s a scenario that underlies our darkest tales of supernatural horror, but its power derives from a very real virus, a deadly scourge known to mankind from our earliest days. In this fascinating exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years in the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies.
The most fatal virus known to science, rabies kills nearly 100 percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. A disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans, rabies has served throughout history as a symbol of savage madness, of inhuman possession. And today, its history can help shed light on the wave of emerging diseases, from AIDS to SARS to avian flu, that we now know to originate in animal populations.
From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.
About the Author
Bill Wasik is a senior editor at Harper’s magazine, where he has written on culture, media, and politics. He is the editor of the anthology Submersion Journalism and has also written for The Oxford American, Slate, Salon, and McSweeney’s.
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