Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilisby Deb Hayden
Was Beethoven experiencing syphilitic euphoria when he composed "Ode to Joy"? Did van Gogh paint "Crows Over the Wheatfield" in a fit of diseased madness
This brilliant work of social history reveals the hidden impact of syphilis on many of history's famous figuresfrom Wilde to Hitler to Abraham Lincolnand its influence on the culture they created.
Was Beethoven experiencing syphilitic euphoria when he composed "Ode to Joy"? Did van Gogh paint "Crows Over the Wheatfield" in a fit of diseased madness right before he shot himself?
Was syphilis a stowaway on Columbus's return voyage to Europe? The answers to these provocative questions are likely "yes," claims Deborah Hayden in this riveting investigation of the effects of the "Pox" on the lives and works of world figures from the fifteenth through 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 personality, and, of course, their art. Deeply informed and courageously argued, Pox has already been heralded as a major contribution to our understanding of genius, madness, and creativity.
Author Biography: Deborah Hayden, an independent scholar and marketing executive, has lectured widely 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.
- Basic Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.60(w) x 9.66(h) x 1.34(d)
Meet 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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A self-proclaimed 'scholar' with no medical training has written a titillating book about a very complex disease. As an example, while the accounts, for instance, of Schubert¿s and Schumann's deaths are fascinating, her belief that they were victims of syphilis is unproven and in fact, sheer speculation. Her inclusion of many famous individuals seems calculated to sell books; her premise seems to be that if these famous people were sick a lot and a bit crazy at the end, they undoubtedly had syphilis!
This is the best book I have read this year, and probably the best book I have read in five years. Not only is the information critical for understanding a number of historical personages, but Hayden's writing is stimulating. Her words work their way through your system the same compelling way syphilis worked its way through such a huge portion of the population until the development of penicillin. That is, her message can't be ignored. The need for society to put syphilis in the closet is surely as strong a statement as the impact of the infection itself on genius, madness, and creativity. I highly recommend this book both for its content and for the joy of reading a brilliant author.
Pox is an astounding book. a superb book of medical detection - in which the author, a sleuth and scholar of the highest level, uncovers how syphilis has laid low some of the greatest figures of the last two centuries: many of our greatest creators (Joyce, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Schumann, Flaubert) Statesmen (Abraham Lincoln) Explorers (Columbus) and destroyers (Adolf Hitler.) A well researched, engaging, and wonderfully written book. A must read. from San Francisco reader.