Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Wisdom of Whores

by Elizabeth Pisani

'Gripping and surprisingly entertaining... an important and wise book.' Sunday Times

'A wonderful book' Daily Telegraph

From blurps like these, it's hard to surmise what lies between the covers. Is the provocative title to be taken seriously, or is it shallow seduction?

Tip #1 
Well, I found this rebel sitting on the shelf in the sociology section of Kinokuniya. When you find a non-academic title on those shelves, you kinda feel that somebody has a deviant point of view - the ingredient for an interesting read.    

Tip #2
If a book holds your interest for five minutes, put your money down for a good read.

Pisani is first of all, an American now based in Singapore. As a teenager, she was so impressed with the Chinese culture while holidaying in Hong Kong that she pursued a degree in classical Chinese and subsequently worked as a foreign correspondent with Reuters covering Asia. Even as she discovered that she loves being paid to travel and chat with people (research and investigate), she soon got frustrated with 'trying to reduce human experience to 600 words on a two-hour deadline.' I always like a woman who knows what she doesn't like and even put it in words! She took a critical look at her life and knew she wanted to do more research to help improve lives. [Writing and research? We could have been separated at birth.] So armed with the desire to learn more about the politics of population control and biology at junior high level, she signed up for a Masters degree in medical demography and sat among doctors, virologists, lab technicians and of course, statisticians, from around the world. It's good when you jump that you don't know how deep the water is.

This is a non-fiction graphic report on the spread of AIDS in Indonesia in a style that moves away from academic writing, making it a totally pleasurable read. The details, I was to find out, did not make for good dinner conversation because the mechanics of spreading HIV from man to man to woman to man to man... doesn't particularly aid digestion. That again, it depends on who you're eating with. 

I would love to have dinner with Pisani. I'm inspired by her gusto, her investigative streak, her writing, her degree of concern for humanity and her sense of humour. Makes a great dining companion.

Where you can get it: S$22.47 Kinokuniya
Level of impact: Good motivational read on research. The author herself is an inspiration to live a progressive life based on what you have, what you know and what you can be.
Timing of book: Affirms my belief in the good of research plus action.