8.34 × 5.86 × 1.09 in
January 25, 2005
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0345456874
ISBN - 13: 9780345456878
About the Book
Part scientific history of blood from ancient Rome to modern day and part memoir of how this vital fluid affects his own life as he watches friends lose their fight with AIDS, Hayes shares his experience in this gripping account.
Read from the Book
Gorgon’s BloodThe first drop stains the pale, clammy flesh. It’s as if the skinned potato, not my sliced finger, is bleeding. Were the cut anywhere else on my body I’d have it under the faucet by now or washed with soap, yet I persist in sucking it. The blood is warm, warmer than saliva. This is what 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit feels like on the tongue.There’s always a moment—less than a moment, actually; however long it takes an instinct to fire, as hand flies to mouth—when I think the blood will taste good (an expectation I’d never have, it strikes me, for other bodily fluids): as earthy as cooked beets or sweet as cassis. Wrong again.Okay, so it doesn’t taste good, but it doesn’t taste bad, either. If it did, all creatures would be repulsed from licking clean their wounds. Blood’s no worse than a lick of sweat yet also not something to be savored. That it tastes faintly like metal, as some people say, is not an undeserved analogy; blood is iron-rich. Two-thirds of the body’s store of iron can be found there. Others say with great specificity that it tastes like a mouthful of change (have they tasted mouthfuls of change?), suggesting, too, that blood is currency, which it certainly is, a donated pint at a blood bank being valued at more than a hundred dollars, according to the FDA. Yet both of these analogies are imprecise, for pennies have a different flavor than quarters, don’t they? And there’s a world of difference between the lip of an aluminum beer can and a sterling sil
From the Publisher
“We’re born in blood. Our family histories are contained in it, our bodies nourished by it daily. Five quarts run through each of us, along some sixty thousand miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries.”
–from Five Quarts
In the national bestseller Sleep Demons, Bill Hayes took us on a trailblazing trip through the night country of insomnia. Now he is our guide on a whirlwind journey through history, literature, mythology, and science by means of the great red river that runs five quarts strong through our bodies.
Profusely illustrated, the journey stretches from ancient Rome, where gladiators drank the blood of vanquished foes to gain strength and courage, to modern-day laboratories, where high-tech machines test blood for diseases and dedicated scientists search for elusive cures. Along the way, there will be world-changing triumphs: William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood; Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s advances in making the invisible world visible in the early days of the microscope; Dr. Paul Ehrlich’s Nobel-Prize-winning work in immunology; Dr. Jay Levy’s codiscovery of the virus that causes AIDS. Yet there will also be ignorance and tragedy: the widespread practice of bloodletting via incision and the use of leeches, which harmed more than it healed; the introduction of hemophilia into the genetic pool of nineteenth-century European royalty thanks to the dynastic ambitions of Queen Victoria; the alleged spread of contaminated blood through a phlebotomist’s negligence in modern-day California.
This is also a personal voyage, in which Hayes recounts the impact of the vital fluid in his daily life, from growing up in a household of five sisters and their monthly cycles, to coming out as a gay man during the explosive early days of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, to his enduring partnership with an HIV-positive man.
As much a biography of blood as it is a memoir of how this rich substance has shaped one man’s life, Five Quarts is by turns whimsical and provocative, informative and moving. It will get under your skin.
About the Author
BILL HAYES is the author of the national bestseller Sleep Demons: An Insomniac’s Memoir. His work has been published in The New York Times Magazine and Details, among other publications, and at Salon.com. He lives in San Francisco with his partner, Steve.
Praise for Bill Hayes
“A remarkable journey, at once highly erudite and profoundly personal, that leads us through history, religion, science–and our own bodies. Bill Hayes is by turns lyrical, rueful, humorous, questioning, and very moving in this book about himself, about our species, and about our past.”
–Perri Klass, M.D.
“Bill Hayes’s highly original meditation on blood is finally, also, a graceful and subtle love story.”
–Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
“A lovely weave of memory and science, great characters and compassionate humor. Insomniacs will love it for the sense of connection and solution, the rest of you (grrr) for its wisdom and wonderful writing.”
–Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird
“Hayes, a lifelong insomniac, pursues sleep as avidly and lyrically as Nabokov pursued butterflies.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
“An intelligent, beautifully written book . . . that variously reads like a journey of scientific discovery, a personal memoir, and a literary episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A graceful hybrid of a book that’s half research treatise and half memoir.”
–Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice)