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SWEETNESS AND BLOOD, How Surfing Spread From Hawaii and California to the Rest of the World, With Some Unexpected Results by Michael Scott Moore (328 pp. Rodale. $25.99)
- First Post: 6/1/2008
- Last Post: 6/20/2010
- Total Posts: 3754
Reviewer Andy Martin in part: "A nomadic Californian surfer once took a wrong turn somewhere in Europe and ended up at the Berlin Wall. His faithful board still slung across his back like a guitar, he gazed up at one of the border guards, ensconced in a tower behind a machine gun and miles of barbed wire, and yelled out, 'Man, you are bummed, because you will never know what true surfing really is!' That ringing indictment of totalitarianism — reported in a 1980s issue of Surfer magazine — turns out to be wrong. In Michael Scott Moore’s clued-in and far-flung Sweetness and Blood, the border guard, so to speak, exchanges his military uniform for baggy shorts and a rash vest. The surfer who came in from the cold.
On Moore’s post-cold-war surfari, everyone is now a beach bum, no one is bummed, anybody can surf anytime, anywhere, from Cuba to Morocco, from the Gaza Strip to Japan. Of course, the Siberian waves aren’t too hot. And personally, I still require palm trees and a sultry breeze before I paddle out. But Moore and a robust wet suit have boldly gone where only serious and often seriously unhinged dudes have gone before, mapping out a fresh, unexpected cartography of the waves.
In his quest for the 'first' surfer in various unlikely locations, Moore gives the palm to an Italian ice cream salesman who rode the waves off Cornwall before World War II. In Germany, Moore discovers that surfers first took to the icy North Sea in the 1950s, when “surfing on a German beach was a small expression of die neue Zeit, the shift from Hitler’s nightmare and the long shadow of the 19th century to an outlook that was more spontaneous, easygoing, modern and rich.Hemingway played an indirect part in making France the West Coast of Europe, when the scriptwriter on the film of The Sun Also Rises, on location in Biarritz and eyeing the surf, wired back to Hollywood for a board.
A FIERCE RADIANCE by Lauren Belfer (532 pp. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $25.99)
Reviewer Maggie Scarf in part: "Lauren Belfer’s death-haunted medical thriller begins in December 1941, just three days after the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor. Claire Shipley, a photojournalist working for the phenomenally successful Life magazine, has come to the Rockefeller Institute in New York to record one of the earliest trials of a new medication called penicillin. Highly effective in experiments involving bacterial infections in mice, this substance is about to be tried on a human. Will the drug work? Or will it have serious, potentially lethal, side effects? For the patient and the doctors, there’s no real choice: this experiment is a desperate last chance for a 37-year-old man who had been robustly healthy until a seemingly harmless scratch, acquired during a game of tennis, rapidly developed into a life-threatening infection.
Claire’s assignment introduces her to the world of medical research — and to Jamie Stanton, the dedicated physician who will administer the penicillin, along with his younger sister, Tia, a mycologist who serves as his chief assistant. These highly attractive, hard-working siblings are motivated by a personal tragedy: their parents perished in the great influenza epidemic that swept the country just after World War I.
After Claire’s initial photo shoot, she returns to find the critically ill patient looking fully recovered. He’s awake and alert, freshly bathed and shaved, and reading the newspaper. But, as Tia Stanton explains, this miracle may be short-lived. If a relapse occurs, there will be no way to save the patient because there is no more medication. Penicillin grows agonizingly slowly, harvested from small droplets that leak from a kind of green mold. The hospital’s supply is being cultivated in makeshift rows of sideways-turned milk bottles, even in bedpans, but the patient has received all the available supply. Sure enough, within hours he begins to fail, and by the end of the day he is dead.
Belfer uses the urgency of the Stantons’ mission — finding a means of quickly mass-producing penicillin — to add drama to the romantic attraction that develops between Claire and Jamie. America has just become a country at war, with soldiers soon to be dying from infected battlefield wounds. The novel’s tension increases as Jamie is called away by the government to oversee and coordinate penicillin projects in laboratories throughout the nation. Back in New York, Tia continues her own research, which may put her in personal danger. And as the race for lucrative pharmaceutical patents on penicillin’s so-called cousins heats up, Claire’s father, a wealthy tycoon, begins to play a significant role in the ever widening narrative.