Win a Copy of Damnation Island! (Maybe!)

There’s a Goodreads giveaway for my latest book Damnation Island (about Blackwell’s Island, the island in the East River now called Roosevelt Island). There are 40 copies to give away, so what the hell? Maybe you will WIN!

The cats spot something. A disembodied hand reaching out of the ceiling, beckoning them to another dimension? A fly, perhaps? Bali, who is on the desk, looks curious. Bodhi, the one the floor, is more, “Okay, what the f**k is that thing?”

The First Review for Damnation Island!

Publisher’s Weekly has weighed in. It’s a very good start!

“Horn (Imperfect Harmony) creates a vivid and at times horrifying portrait of Blackwell’s Island (today’s Roosevelt Island) in New York City’s East River during the late 19th century. Using the institutions that populated the island as an organizing principle, Horn selects colorful stories of individuals confined in the asylum, workhouse, hospital, almshouse, and penitentiary. Episodes include the heroic muckraking efforts of journalists Nellie Bly and William P. Rogers in exposing the mistreatment of the confined; tragic tales of young prisoners, like teenaged pickpocket Adelaide Irving, imprisoned for relatively minor crimes and never able to fully recover from her time there; and truly nightmarish accounts of medical experimentation, including brain surgery administered under (ineffective) hypnosis rather than anesthesia. The anecdotal rather than linear narrative approach captures the drama of the island’s inmates, but can make understanding the chronology challenging. Horn has created a bleak but worthwhile depiction of institutional failure, with relevance for persistent debates over the treatment of the mentally ill and incarcerated.”

The beautiful ruins of the Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island. As of 1875 the Smallpox Hospital was controlled by the Board of Health, and later renamed Riverside Hospital. Riverside Hospital was moved to North Brother Island in 1885, and the former Smallpox Hospital was used as a home for the nurses from the Training School. (North Brother Island is most famous as the place where Typhoid Mary was confined.)

Smallpox Hospital, Blackwell's Island, Now Roosevelt Island

The Dumbing Down of Stacy

I just read an essay about the dumbing down of America which made me want to weep. But it also made me look at myself. I don’t read a tenth of what I used to read, and I definitely used to think more. It’s hard to explain. I’m as curious as I’ve always been about just about everything, and researching one thing or another is still a favorite past time. But I used to question more, ponder more. There’s something about my thinking these days that just feels more passive. It’s not that I’ve ever been terribly informed or educated. I couldn’t pass the test they give to prospective citizens. I could never answer the questions on that show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

But I used to spend more time thinking about whatever it was I’d just learned, and talking to anyone who was willing to talk to me if it was something that set my brain on fire. Another thing that doesn’t happen so much anymore.

What else I’ve done so far on my day off today:

– Tried to fix my broken vacuum cleaner. Fail.
– Tried to trim the cat’s nails. 8 nails down before the first cat freaked, 22 to go.
– Oh shit. That’s it.

Another disturbing piece of street art that I love. I think this must be the same artist as the recent piece of street art I just posted about.

“Senator McCain and Our Shared Humanity”

I’m posting a link to an essay written by my cousin, William G. Kaelin Jr, MD, for The American Journal of Medicine. It’s about health care, written by someone very informed and compassionate.

I’m going to lose my health insurance in a couple of weeks, and I have to decide what to do. It could be that I’ll only be without if for three of four months, and maybe nothing bad will happen to me in that time. But maybe something will! What to do, what to do.

These days it seems like there’s always a protest going on somewhere in the city. I passed this one in Union Square a couple of weeks ago.