Not for breakfast reading ...

It seems we're still debating just what the Black Death was, although given its effects on human history, it may have been our closest experience to annihilation. Estimates range as high as 60 percent of Europe died; whole towns were emptied. And that doesn't count the dead in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. Some of the most moving personal accounts can be found in medieval manuscripts -- which stop with the author's last prayer. "Videtur quod Auctor hic obiit" one copyist noted: "It seems the author died here."

But if you really want to know how it operated, Ole J. Benedictow's book, The Black Death: 1346-1353, The Complete History seems to be the place to start. The book, released in February, is reviewed in the TLS and the controversies (whether it was the bubonic plague or a virus, which rat was responsible) are explained with the kind of detail one can really feel: "The blockage in its stomach prevents the maddened, dying flea from being able to ingest more than a small amount of human blood, and causes it instead to regurgitate tiny amounts of infected rat blood . . . "

November 4, 2006 3:22 AM |



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Reviewing the state of reviewing


9/11 as a novel: Why?


How can critics say the things they do? And why does anyone pay attention? It's the issue of authority.

The disappearing book pages:  

Papers are cutting book coverage for little reason

Thrillers and Lists:  

Noir favorites, who makes the cut and why



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This page contains a single entry by book/daddy published on November 4, 2006 3:22 AM.

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