Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. Viking, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-670-02373-8
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 Brontë to Anne Rice, and right up to the Twilight series. Agent: Tina Bennett, Janklow & Nesbit. (July)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 07/19/2012
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