Book Review: Rabid—A Cultural History

Rabid dog

By Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

The full subtitle of this book neatly encapsulates its theme and tone: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus. Note that it identifies itself not as a general or scientific history, but as a “cultural” one. This is an accurate descriptive; for truly, few diseases known to humanity have branded themselves into our collective psyche and culture so widely, so deeply, and for so long; and as something not merely organically deadly but infernally so, and thus profoundly to be feared. (The few others that even come close include leprosy and polio.)

Though shelved in the non-fiction area of your library or bookstore, Rabid spins a series of tales and observations that could have come from the fictional horror story pen of Stephen King. It is at once fascinating and terrifying. The authors, a husband-and-wife team, are eminently qualified to write such a book. Wasik is a magazine editor who writes about science and technology; while Murphy is a veterinarian with a degree in public health. Together they have put together the definitive “biography” of the rabies pathogen. Continue reading “Book Review: Rabid—A Cultural History

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A Brief History of Rabies

Antique natural history book
Rabid: A Cultural History by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

Rabies is a scourge as old as human civilization, and the terror of its manifestation is a fundamental human fear, because it challenges the boundary of humanity itself. That is, it troubles the line where man ends and animal begins—for the rabid bite is the visible symbol of the animal infecting the human, of an illness in a creature metamorphosing demonstrably into that same illness in a person.

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus
By Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy


Ketchum Mfg. Co. 2020 rabies tags on sale
On Sale! Order now and save 20%.

With the release of our line of 2020 Pet Rabies Tags for our customers’ dogs and cats, we at Ketchum Mfg. Inc. thought this would be an appropriate time to present a timeline of notable events in the rise of—and ongoing battle against—a pathogen that has plagued humankind and our domesticated animals since long before the first history book was written: the rabies virus. Continue reading “A Brief History of Rabies”

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Diary of a Reluctant Cat Rescuer

Charles Darwin quote: The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.

Guest blog by Frank Weaver

“So first, your memory I’ll jog,
And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.”
~ T.S. Eliot, ‘The Ad-dressing of Cats’
from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

Perhaps it is due to a defect in my character, but the company of animals has for me often been preferable to that of human beings. Not that I am any sort of misanthrope. I like people, and get along well with practically all of them. It’s just that I find the complex machinations of the human mind—how to read it, how to respond to it, what to make of it—quite exhausting at times. Whereas the instincts, behaviors, and personalities of most animals lie much more at the surface, readily accessible if not always understood. Their innocence is profoundly appealing, and thus dealing with them is just easier for someone like me.

So yes, I love animals, all of them. I daresay, they tend to love me back most of the time. And how could it be otherwise?—given that my namesake saint is most famous for his inspiring rapport with birds and every other beast.

St. Francis with the Animals
Saint Francis with the Animals by Lambert de Hondt / Willem van Herp

Continue reading “Diary of a Reluctant Cat Rescuer”

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