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Rats: Observations on the History and…
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Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted…

by Robert Sullivan

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Rats are not my favourite topic, but Mr. Sullivan made then fascinating, albeit still a bit repulsive. Rats have affected humans a lot more than most other things in history, and for that reason if no other they should be read about. This is a great read. ( )
  RobertP | Jan 13, 2014 |
Rats by Robert Sullivan is a fascinating study of rats and their cohabitation with humans. One particularly interesting section was on rats and plague, which, as you may know, is spread to humans by the rat flea. Apparently the Japanese were the first to experiment with the use of plague as a biological weapon during WWII under the direction of General Shiro Ishii. He discovered that the best was to infect a city with plague was to fill clay bombs with infected fleas. An attack was successfully conducted against the Chinese city ofChangde. A clue that the outbreak was caused by humans rather than rats was that the rats began dying of plague weeks after the humans, a reverse of the normal situation.

General Ishii also practiced vivisection on live humans. He was never tried for war crimes, apparently having made a deal with the Americans who got copies of his notes and papers which formed the basis for the early American attempts at creating biological weapons. He retired a respected medical man.

The United States began experimenting with biological weapons in the early fifties and tested their weapon distribution methods on unsuspecting Americans. In one case, Navy planes sprayed the eastern Virginia coat with microbes similar to Anthrax but "thought to be harmless," and as late as 1966, soldiers dressed in civilian clothes dropped light bulbs filled with the microbes on the tracks in New York subways in order to measure how the microbes dispersed -- all without the knowledge of the public or Congress. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Sullivan spent a year observing rats in a single alley in the financial district of Manhattan. What originally started as a magazine article was bulked up into a book-length work that covers the history of rats in New York, the history of the plague, the profession and life of the exterminator, and Sullivan's own many observations on the activities and preferences of his particular alley rats. The author occasionally gets a little cute, and his comparisons of the activities of people to the activities of rats can get a little dull, but ultimately this is a pretty fascinating book, regardless of your feelings for rodents. As much a history of New York City as an exploration of a single animal, the wide-reaching nature of Sullivan's reporting is a real strength and keeps the book from getting too bogged down in a single corner.

[full review here: http://spacebeer.blogspot.com/2013/08/rats-observations-on-history-and.html ] ( )
  kristykay22 | Aug 13, 2013 |
I used to think I had obsessions. Not compared to this guy. Fascinating book, but lots of ewwwwing! and oooohging over it whenever members of my family would see it. I wanted to pass it to my exterminator when I was done. Couldn't find it anywhere. Maybe a family member lost it accidentally on purpose. ( )
  dmarsh451 | Apr 1, 2013 |
Books read in the past:

This is a lovely book about rats in a New York alley, with tangents to explore aspects of rat life raised by these observations. Read with [b:Rats, Lice, and History|371062|Rats, Lice, and History Being a Study in Biography, Which, After Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals With the Life History of Typhus Fever|Hans Zinsser|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1174229802s/371062.jpg|1164781] for maximum rodent-related pleasure. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
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When I wrote the following account of my experiences with rats, I lived in an apartment building on a block filled with other apartment buildings, amidst the approximately eight million people in New York City, and I paid rent to a landlord that I never actually met-though I did meet the superintendent, who was a very nice guy.
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In Rats, the critically acclaimed bestseller, Robert Sullivan spends a year investigating a rat-infested alley just a few blocks away from Wall Street. Sullivan gets to know not just the beast but its friends and foes: the exterminators, the sanitation workers, the agitators and activists who have played their part in the centuries-old war between human city dweller and wild city rat. Sullivan looks deep into the largely unrecorded history of the city and its masses-its herds-of-rats-like mob. Funny, wise, sometimes disgusting but always compulsively readable, Rats earns its unlikely place alongside the great classics of nature writing.… (more)

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