Unsurprisingly, infectious diseases dominate Dr. Ross's literary ward round as they dominated all eras in which the germs that cause them were not understood and antibiotics not available. The usual suspects, syphilis (Shakespeare), gonorrhea (Joyce) and tuberculosis (the Brontës, Orwell), are joined by more exotic transmissible misfortunes such as yaws, a tropical disease that causes dreadful ulcers (London), and relapsing fever, or Brucellosis (Yeats). Bipolar disorder—in which frenzied productivity alternates with increasingly frequent crashes into depression—is plausibly ascribed to Melville, Hawthorne and London. Some of Dr. Ross's subjects seem also to have had mild autism, which made ordinary relationships agonizingly difficult. Their medical troubles were frequently compounded by heroic alcohol consumption, intended to mitigate their symptoms. Downwardly mobile parents and other childhood traumas also loom large in the literary C.V.
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
… Book Review: Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough - WSJ.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)