Gardening in Clay: Reflections on AIDS

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9780801429811: Gardening in Clay: Reflections on AIDS

A physician involved in AIDS prevention since the beginning of the epidemic, who lost his own twin brother to the disease, observes the fear and prejudice surrounding AIDS and weighs the misery against the promise of natural renewal.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A sometimes moving but often frustratingly evasive collection of meditations on AIDS by a physician who has lost his twin brother to the disease. Valdiserri brings a fascinating combination of experiences to a discussion of AIDS; in addition to his devastating personal encounter with the epidemic, he is deputy director of the Division of STD/HIV Prevention at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, he too often finds refuge in truism. The book's framing metaphor, that of gardening, underscores the well-worn notion that we do not grow without pain and loss, that some good always comes out of disappointment and defeat. Fortunately, this Panglossian cheer is sometimes tempered by more convincingly evoked rage; he calls his anger over his brother's death ``a grotesque lens whose wavy yellow glass distorts everything I see and do...'' and admits that only ``on the good days'' does he think that he will ``become a better person because of this ordeal.'' Some of Valdiserri's metaphors are bold and powerful. A little-known painting of the Virgin Mary dying from the Black Death ``already partly consumed by toads and snakes...diseased and decomposing'' reminds him of our anger at the pervasiveness of AIDS and our shock when it touches people we love. However, he has a tendency to painstakingly spell out the meaning of such images, rather than letting them speak for themselves. The book is further weakened by Valdiserri's impulse to sentimentalize, especially about pets, plants, and childhood; a plate from his parents' house reminds him ``of a time in [his]...life when questions always had answers, when troubles were transitory, quickly dispatched....'' Gardening in Clay has moments of insight, but its sentimentality and lack of subtlety hinder it from a more profound engagement with its subject. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

In 26 brief, earnest but ineffectual essays about AIDS, Valdiserri draws on personal as well as professional experience: a physician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he saw his twin brother die of the disease. The title piece discusses the author's struggle to grow flowers in the clay soil of his garden as a metaphor for the perseverance needed in the dispiriting fight against AIDS. Although Valdiserri strives to invest familiar themes with new energy--the instructiveness of adversity, the persistent prejudice that characterizes illness as a failure of personal responsibility, the solace a pet can provide--the essays are not well enough crafted to turn platitudes, however heartfelt, into good literature. Valdisseri only sporadically writes of his complex yet shadowy relationship with his ailing twin brother, who is usually sentimentalized in these essays.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Ronald O. Valdiserri
Published by Cornell Univ Pr (1994)
ISBN 10: 0801429811 ISBN 13: 9780801429811
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Valdiserri, Ronald O.
Published by Cornell Univ Pr (1994)
ISBN 10: 0801429811 ISBN 13: 9780801429811
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