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Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between

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Invisible in the food we eat, the people we kiss, and inside our own bodies, viruses flourish—with the power to shape not only our health, but our social, political, and economic systems. Drawing on his expertise in microbiology, Joseph Osmundson brings readers under the microscope to understand the structure and mechanics of viruses and to examine how viruses like HIV and Invisible in the food we eat, the people we kiss, and inside our own bodies, viruses flourish—with the power to shape not only our health, but our social, political, and economic systems. Drawing on his expertise in microbiology, Joseph Osmundson brings readers under the microscope to understand the structure and mechanics of viruses and to examine how viruses like HIV and COVID-19 have redefined daily life. Osmundson’s buoyant prose builds on the work of the activists and thinkers at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS crisis and critical scholars like José Esteban Munoz to navigate the intricacies of risk reduction, draw parallels between queer theory and hard science, and define what it really means to “go viral.” This dazzling multidisciplinary collection offers novel insights on illness, sex, and collective responsibility. Virology is a critical warning, a necessary reflection, and a call for a better future.


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Invisible in the food we eat, the people we kiss, and inside our own bodies, viruses flourish—with the power to shape not only our health, but our social, political, and economic systems. Drawing on his expertise in microbiology, Joseph Osmundson brings readers under the microscope to understand the structure and mechanics of viruses and to examine how viruses like HIV and Invisible in the food we eat, the people we kiss, and inside our own bodies, viruses flourish—with the power to shape not only our health, but our social, political, and economic systems. Drawing on his expertise in microbiology, Joseph Osmundson brings readers under the microscope to understand the structure and mechanics of viruses and to examine how viruses like HIV and COVID-19 have redefined daily life. Osmundson’s buoyant prose builds on the work of the activists and thinkers at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS crisis and critical scholars like José Esteban Munoz to navigate the intricacies of risk reduction, draw parallels between queer theory and hard science, and define what it really means to “go viral.” This dazzling multidisciplinary collection offers novel insights on illness, sex, and collective responsibility. Virology is a critical warning, a necessary reflection, and a call for a better future.

30 review for Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra on plane flapping arms vigorously

    Update Why I can't write a review when the author has made his presence known, is thata review is my opinion of a book. The author intruding makes me have to consider him, his feelings etc. And I don't want to. If you are talking to your friends at the table over coffee in a restaurant, you are going to critique the food openly between you. Should the chef come out and introduce himself, it becomes a whole other ballgame. And so this is. __________ "Even if I were straight, God forbid...", would Update Why I can't write a review when the author has made his presence known, is thata review is my opinion of a book. The author intruding makes me have to consider him, his feelings etc. And I don't want to. If you are talking to your friends at the table over coffee in a restaurant, you are going to critique the food openly between you. Should the chef come out and introduce himself, it becomes a whole other ballgame. And so this is. __________ "Even if I were straight, God forbid...", would "Even if I were gay, God forbid..." be so acceptable. I think not. The author has made his present known that he is reading my review. So this pisses me off, I don't like being watched, I don't like knowing an author is reading what i have to say about his book. So I'm not going to review the book for now. Suffice it to say, it is very well written, has some interesting essays, but some.. well, God forbid I would skim them. 3.5 stars. I would like to correct the author on one thing though. It's all right going on at such length about how under this capitalist system, White privilege has screwed Blacks so much even in medical care, and then he uses a White fact-checker to come up with this as correct, Many prostate cancers require no intervention at all. They are subclinical. We live with them until something else kills us. Prostate cancer in Black men is a virulently aggressive disease that strikes in the 40s and without radical treatment, death in 6 months, as happened to a friend of mine. As happened to my bf as well. He didn't die but nothing, not even Viagra, works. Miserable for a man in his 40s. One in four Black men get it, as opposed to one in eight White men, who get it in their 60s or later, and as the author says, don't usually die from it. So maybe stop checking this only from a white privilege position? _________ "Whiteness and racism and patriarchy and homophobia and transphobia and the foundational force under all of them - capitalism - are extinguishing our ability to continue living on this planet." And all these problems would be solved if the 'foundational force under all of them" was... Marxism instead? Is there a single non-capitalist country which isn't homophobic, transphobic and patriarchal? Are any of them - Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam not racist against Black or Indigenous people? No. And who am I writing this? Am I White? I am Jewish, so mostly I am White (but then I am evil) and sometimes not White (then I am definitely evil) and sometimes, as where I live, a White but not-to-be-included White having married... gasp, a Black man (until they want a favour since I married into the top political family of the island, not some handsome beach boy as my friends assumed. Why do people never assume that Black people are not at the top of the game?). The essays I am reading now, are just one more addition to the endless stream on how bad Whites are, how they are behind everything bad that happened to everyone non-White, right back to the days of feudalism according to this particular author. Everything. No exceptions so far. "Whites are spiritually bankrupt," Naturally, Trump has been mentioned dozens of times. Can't we get past Trump? Can't the discussion on White privilege move on from chest-beating, forehead furrowing confessionals? If we have identified the problem, can we not try and come up with a solution? And no, it's not the modern Marxism of the so-called pigs on the Farm Progressives. __________ This is NOTHING like the blurb at all. I thought it was going to be a science book, so I was really surprised to read, "The first time I went down on a guy," (he liked it) (I like the book).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    In Virology, Joseph Osmundson combines his occupational passion for microbiology and his personal passion for writing to reflect on the ways in which viruses shape us and we shape each other. Virology is a collection of disconnected essays tied together by a general thread of self-reflection in times of viral upheaval. Some of these essays take the form of scientific reflection - Osmundson is, after all, a virologist - while others take the form of personal reflection, of personal growth before, In Virology, Joseph Osmundson combines his occupational passion for microbiology and his personal passion for writing to reflect on the ways in which viruses shape us and we shape each other. Virology is a collection of disconnected essays tied together by a general thread of self-reflection in times of viral upheaval. Some of these essays take the form of scientific reflection - Osmundson is, after all, a virologist - while others take the form of personal reflection, of personal growth before, during, and after COVID-19. At times the essays seem out of place - like the one on archiving activist history (which actually was my favorite essay). Osmundson writes about the anxieties we all felt at the beginning of the pandemic and the ways in which racial disparities and metaphor shape our responses and reactions to this life-shattering event. Osmundson is at his best when he writing about science: he has a way of connecting complicated, erudite ideas to our lives as we live them today. And his own personal narratives are also compelling: it feels nice to hear a scientist reveal his own emotional experiences of love, lost love, and friendship. But his essays on politics and general cultural ideas feel less compelling: his ideas on metaphor, war, and race are ideas I agree with but his support for his arguments and ideas in them seemed short-changed. And at times his reflections on his own past relationships and his own (sometimes seemingly extreme) reactions to COVID-19 make the book cringe-y in parts. Overall Virologyis a great book to read as you, the reader, reflect on the ways in which this pandemic or ones that have come before - especially the HIV/AIDS crisis - shaped you and your experiences; this book is a perfect summer read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I read 7.5 out of the 12 essays. The style of these essays did not do it for me; the writing feels very staccato, with different ideas in the same essay lined up side-by-side next to each other, without a real thesis (besides a uniting theme, like "viruses" or "race"). This kind of simulated stream-of-consciousness doesn't work for me, but I know this is only a matter of taste. I really enjoyed the information in the first essay about how different viruses work, and I also really liked a later ess I read 7.5 out of the 12 essays. The style of these essays did not do it for me; the writing feels very staccato, with different ideas in the same essay lined up side-by-side next to each other, without a real thesis (besides a uniting theme, like "viruses" or "race"). This kind of simulated stream-of-consciousness doesn't work for me, but I know this is only a matter of taste. I really enjoyed the information in the first essay about how different viruses work, and I also really liked a later essay about HIV. I also liked much of the essay about personal writing. So much kindness and joy shines through this book in general and through that essay in particular. But overall I didn't feel that many of the ideas in this book were anything I hadn't seen before, and again, I bounced off the style pretty hard. YMMV! I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    meg

    I really enjoyed this collections of essays about viruses and how they affect society. The author points out that viruses do not have minds of their own, the only thing they seek to do is to replicate in a host's cells. But this simple action has deep and far reaching effects. His essays go on to explore what viruses like Covid-19, HIV and influenza mean for societies and how they have affected the author in his personal life. I like the author's interdisciplinary approach to his collection of es I really enjoyed this collections of essays about viruses and how they affect society. The author points out that viruses do not have minds of their own, the only thing they seek to do is to replicate in a host's cells. But this simple action has deep and far reaching effects. His essays go on to explore what viruses like Covid-19, HIV and influenza mean for societies and how they have affected the author in his personal life. I like the author's interdisciplinary approach to his collection of essays, by introducing elements of scientific discourse to explain in an accessible manner the topics at hand to elements of literary discourse to see different author's perspectives on viruses and illness. I also liked how the author discussed the matters of gender, sexuality and race in relation to viruses and their impact in marginalized communities. In all, this is definitely one of my favorite books this year.

  5. 5 out of 5

    C. Russell

    Contagious writing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Renu

    **Fair Warning: Harsh Critique Below** Woof. The title of this book is "Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between." However, it should be named "Collection of Essays I Felt Like Sharing That are Somewhat Connected to my Life, Covid-19, White Privilege, Queerness, and Anything Else I Felt like Writing About in that Moment." My biggest complaint on the book is how it is marketed, both in the blurb on the back and the author's description, to be a book about Covid-19 **Fair Warning: Harsh Critique Below** Woof. The title of this book is "Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between." However, it should be named "Collection of Essays I Felt Like Sharing That are Somewhat Connected to my Life, Covid-19, White Privilege, Queerness, and Anything Else I Felt like Writing About in that Moment." My biggest complaint on the book is how it is marketed, both in the blurb on the back and the author's description, to be a book about Covid-19 and HIV told from the expert perspective of an NYU professor of microbiology while drawing on unique testimonies and perspectives from the LGBTQ community. Instead, to me, it ended up being a random assortment of essays that made fanatical parallels to queer culture and were extremely unpredictable in tone and topic. I truly couldn't comprehend what the, if there even was one, central topic, narrative, argument, or theme of this book could be. Is it about the author's personal life? Is it about virology? Is it about the pandemic? Is it about queer culture? Is it about white privilege and institutionalized racism and discrimination? I honestly don't know. The main meat of the book is just diary entries followed by response essays roughly from the Covid-19 lockdown/ high infection rate days. At one point the author just transcribes entire podcasts that he did with different people and calls it a chapter. Calling this book a collection of essays just feels like a copout to having minimal structure and design while also flitting from unrelated topic to unrelated topic and somehow tying everything back to his personal life and experiences. Two of my harshest criticisms is the idealized/ fantasized role that the queer community takes on in the book in tandem with the almost reckless use of the word f*g(s) to refer to himself, his friends, and the gay community at large. After some independent research I can potentially understand his attempted reclamation of the slur but it is so unrelated to the marketed topic of the book that I can't imagine how anyone who is not extremely familiar with the contemporary currents of gay culture wouldn't be thrown off guard by his casual use of the word. He is somehow dismissive, condescending, and sometimes just flat-out crude in how he speaks about the gay community, hookup culture, sex parties, etc. while also proselytizing his deep respect, appreciation, and love for the queer community. I'm sure the vast majority of what he is saying is going way over my head but I just couldn't make sense of it. The second of my two harsh criticisms is that I feel that the book is somewhat of a testament to the author's own life and accomplishments. We jump from essay to essay while somehow consistently coming back to the author's own personal achievements, childhood stories, cooking skills, intimate details from past relationships, and so on. In summation, I would not recommend this book to anyone who is lured by a false sense of learning about HIV, Covid-19, or virology from an NYU professor of microbio's perspective. I would only recommend this book to someone who is interested in reading something that was written almost as a stream-of-consciousness collection of one single unique person's thoughts on life, sexuality, gay heritage, pandemic experiences, relationship experiences, respect and admiration for HIV survivors and activists, and any other topic that was deemed appropriate to include.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    ‘The problem wasn’t illness. The problem never is. Illness is a fact of life. The problem is our inability to provide care to all.’

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dane Stuessi

    While immensely interesting and full of great info - I just couldn’t finish this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    A moving collection of essays by a queer scientist and activist. Osmundson shares the struggles of the coronavirus pandemic through the lens of being a scientist and a gay man haunted by what has and hasn't been learned from HIV and AIDS. He advocates for an inclusive culture of care and engagement with the past. Highly recommended on audio; the oral histories were heartfelt and thought-provoking. A moving collection of essays by a queer scientist and activist. Osmundson shares the struggles of the coronavirus pandemic through the lens of being a scientist and a gay man haunted by what has and hasn't been learned from HIV and AIDS. He advocates for an inclusive culture of care and engagement with the past. Highly recommended on audio; the oral histories were heartfelt and thought-provoking.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Annaelle

    Pas vraiment d'avis. J'ai lu un extrait et ne pense pas poursuivre ma lecture. Dans ce que j'ai pu lire j'ai trouvé les thèmes liés de manière "superficielle", et l'aspect virologie (dans ce que j'ai pu lire) est trop "léger" pour quelqu'un en biologie. Je pense simplement que l'oeuvre s'adresse vraiment à un public n'y connaissant rien. Pas vraiment d'avis. J'ai lu un extrait et ne pense pas poursuivre ma lecture. Dans ce que j'ai pu lire j'ai trouvé les thèmes liés de manière "superficielle", et l'aspect virologie (dans ce que j'ai pu lire) est trop "léger" pour quelqu'un en biologie. Je pense simplement que l'oeuvre s'adresse vraiment à un public n'y connaissant rien.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amie Whittemore

    This book was smart, funny, vivid, and honest. It is a wonderful example of queer science/ecology/biology, of exploring how queerness informs human experience as well as human/nonhuman interaction. Also, viruses are so weird.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    1

  13. 4 out of 5

    Clayton

    Effective admixture of microbiology, queer theory, and the personal essay

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    3.8

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hill

    Such a good read. I got a little tripped up with the science, but somehow still so poetic and engaging.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kestutis Micke

    Started to read, was not worth finishing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Danvers

    There is much to praise here. I look forward to more from Osmundson, perhaps with a touch less drama which at times distracts from the power of his thoughts.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Levi

    A really cool collection. Some really powerful ideas that I’m still thinking about days later. Highly recommend.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    Virology is an examination of the outsized role of the microscopic on our lives. Osmundson elevates AIDS activism, queer pedagogy, and feminist ethics of care as alternatives to isolation, fear, and metaphors of war that embody solidarity, cooperation, and joy. Two years into a pandemic that continues to impact daily life across the planet, Virology is literature as possibility for a different global future.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gary

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Turner

  22. 5 out of 5

    claire

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura Neemann

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Chavez

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Kazamawa

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fuckyoucharles

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rico Vallejo

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lillian

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shana Yates

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