New books that examine the pandemic and its consequences

A PANDEMIC IN RESIDENCE Detroit hospital trials By Selina Mahmood 133 pp. Belt Publishing. Paper, $ 16.95. What come Last year? ...


A PANDEMIC IN RESIDENCE
Detroit hospital trials
By Selina Mahmood
133 pp. Belt Publishing. Paper, $ 16.95.

What come Last year? How to explain how the world has changed? Perhaps, as Mahmood suggests with the quote from British poet Momtaza Mehri who opens her book, the answer is to “live in digression”.

The first-time author skillfully handles digression into this collection of essays, taking readers through her experience as a first-year neurology resident at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Organized chronologically, with sections spanning March, April, May, and “June and Beyond,” the book chronicles the chaotic first months of the pandemic.

Irregular and intelligent, with a calm tone even when writing about the death of a patient, Mahmood is a reliable narrator. “Human,” March’s second essay, ranges from meditations on his Pakistani family to a brief history of the Flexner Report, the landmark 1910 survey of medical education. References proliferate from there, although the essays plunge back into moments of more traditional storytelling. Although artificial, the automatic writing that underlies his style sometimes turns into inconsistency rather than evocation.

Think of this book as a series of snapshots that add to an argument. “I’ve seen enough of it to limit intellectualism in the face of suffering,” Mahmood concludes in “The Case of the Missing Feather,” April’s third essay. Some time later, she clarifies: “The idea that suffering has no meaning has no meaning, because what is the point of reference for this affirmation? A simple declaration of having been heard, whether in silence or anguish, is enough.

VIRUS

Vaccinations, CDC and hijacking the US response to the pandemic
By Nina Burleigh
191 pp. Seven stories. $ 25.95.

Like many others at the start of pandemic containment, investigative journalist Burleigh turned to the literature on past epidemics: in her case, a “dog-eared and yellowed graduate school paperback of” A Journal of the Plague Year ”by Daniel Defoe. ‘ “She found herself following in the eighteenth century journalist’s footsteps with” Virus “, which aims to” record how we have responded to this pandemic, as a society and scientifically, so we are sure to do better next. ” times. “

The pandemic, seen through Burleigh’s eyes, was a ‘gift from God’ to the two ideologically different and powerful factions who united behind Donald Trump as he sought to become president: the anti-regulatory capitalists and the extremists Christians. The instability and panic this created allowed the two to move their agendas forward, she argues, at the cost of Americans’ lives and livelihoods.

“The pandemic has given the federal government an opportunity to prove to Americans that government can still be a force for good,” she concludes. “Instead, the government did what it could to ensure that whatever was left of this faith after three years of state-destroying ideology evaporates.”

While Burleigh expresses human suffering and his own outrage at how preventable all of this was, his tone can be exaggerated at times. His disgust is certainly deserved, but it can also be difficult for readers to draw their own conclusions from the evidence presented. It would be a stronger book if it stuck to the obvious.

AVOIDABLE
The inner story of how leadership failures, politics and selfishness doomed the US response to the coronavirus
By Andy Slavitt
315 pages. Saint-Martin. $ 28.99.

Late in Slavitt’s account, he points out to veteran New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear that the White House was the journalist’s office long before it was President Trump’s office. The same could be said of Slavitt, who is part of President Biden’s Covid Response Team, who first found himself in the White House to help fix the disastrous Obamacare deployment.

Filled with anecdotes about his family and the friends and high-ranking colleagues he has rallied to help the administration fight Covid, “Preventable” is worth reading, if only for the glimpse that ‘he offers of what America’s elite class was doing during those long months when the pandemic hit.

Slavitt may not have agreed with the Trump team – and he may have spoken loudly about the disagreement on Twitter – but he was and remains a political insider. He is outspoken about the conflicts this position has provoked, just as he is outspoken about all the ways the health care system serves the profits relative to the Americans. But he can’t get out of that perspective.

That said, the book is an informative (albeit at times egotistical) review of what went so horribly wrong with the federal government’s response. It shines in the moments when Slavitt ties that failure to a much longer timeline of neglect. He leaves readers with a poignant challenge: “We allowed people to live like this before the pandemic, and many others lived like this during the pandemic; it’s up to us to decide if people live like this after the pandemic. “

UNTIL PROVEN SAFETY

The history and future of quarantine
By Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley
396 p. MCD / Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $ 28.

Readers are likely to discover this long cultural history of the quarantine as a public health tool with more personal knowledge about its subject than Manaugh and Twilley anticipated when they started working on their book, long before our current pandemic. .

Architectural and scientific writers combine the history of both distant and modern epidemics (bubonic plague, yellow fever, HIV-AIDS, Ebola) with anecdotes from their own research experiences. From traveling to Venice to understand how quarantines were deployed during the Black Death to observing quarantine behaviors of social spiders with a researcher in Los Angeles, the couple are friendly traveling companions to understand what the quarantine and what will become of it.

“We need a quarantine futurist,” a public health expert observed very early on to the authors. While they’re not quite futuristic, Twilley and Manaugh manage to stay focused on the future. The book features NASA officials, nuclear waste managers, architects, and many more trying to reimagine quarantine. It also addresses the issues on a human scale of emotion, connection and surveillance that we have known well since 2020.

“Real-time, restricted access infection mapping technologies promise – or perhaps threaten – to turn the entire world into a lazaretto, a virtual quarantine facility defined by regulations that require us to avoid the company of others, ”predict the couple. “In the coming 40s, you will be able to go anywhere – but you will be monitored, measured and diagnosed all the time. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: New books that examine the pandemic and its consequences
New books that examine the pandemic and its consequences
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