And the Band Played On (Magill Book Reviews)
This book is a masterpiece of investigative reporting. Proceeding chronologically, Randy Shilts lays out the course of the AIDS epidemic from 1976, when the virus seems to have leaped from central Africa to Europe and then from Europe to the United States, to the early months of 1987, when the nation belatedly began to come to terms with the disease’s true seriousness. Shilts, who has covered the AIDS epidemic full-time for the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE since 1982, tells his story by knitting several different strands into a well-integrated narrative. On one level, Shilts graphically portrays the ravaging effects of a slow and relentless death on AIDS victims and their loved ones. Against this “human interest” backdrop, he recounts the nation’s effort to bring AIDS under control, taking the reader on a journey into gay America, the country’s health and scientific establishments, and American politics on the local, state, and national levels.
What emerges from this tour is far from hopeful. Though some doctors, community leaders, researchers, and public officials threw themselves into the fight against AIDS with much vigor and devotion and others were at least sensible and humane, the nation’s overall response was tragically sluggish. Shilts’s account associates this failure with a number of factors: the crippling effects of President Ronald Reagan’s budget-cutting efforts, a news media largely oblivious to AIDS (until Rock Hudson’s death...
(The entire section is 331 words.)
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And the Band Played On (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic is the first major history of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) epidemic. There is no reading this book without feeling intense anxiety about one’s health and the health of one’s loved ones; furious anger toward the organizations and individuals who have cost thousands of lives through their blindness, prejudice, and egotism; enormous respect for the people who have bravely sought to cure this disease; and a bottom-of-the-well despair for the unfathomable suffering this plague has caused and will continue to cause tens and hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Shilts is exceptionally, perhaps uniquely, qualified to write this book. Not only is he a health reporter, but he is also self-avowedly gay—a fact of critical importance, since the AIDS epidemic was and largely still is identified as a gay disease in this country. Since 1982, Shilts has worked in San Francisco, the gay mecca that would be so hard hit by this epidemic, for the San Francisco Chronicle, perhaps the only newspaper in the United States to recognize the epidemic as a newsworthy topic almost from the first signs of its arrival. Since 1983, Shilts’s sole professional topic has been the AIDS epidemic. And the Band Played On is filled with information that only someone in Shilts’s position could have culled, from doctors and government officials interviewed...
(The entire section is 2161 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Chicago Tribune. October 18, 1987, XIV, p. 3.
Kirkus Reviews. LV, September 1, 1987, p. 1303.
Library Journal. CXII, November 15, 1987, p. 71.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. December 6, 1987, p. 6.
The Nation. CCXLV, November 7, 1987, p. 526.
The New York Times Book Review. XCII, November 8, 1987, p. 9.
The New Yorker. LXIII, December 28, 1987, p. 124.
Newsweek. CX, October 19, 1987, p. 91.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXII, September 11, 1987, p. 72.
Time. CXXX, October 19, 1987, p. 40.
(The entire section is 55 words.)