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An Underground Education: The Unauthorized and Outrageous Supplement to Everything You Thought You Knew out Art, Sex, Business, Crime, Science, Medicine, and Other Fields of Human Paperback – April 20, 1999
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Fascinating & sometimes deeply weird true stories!
Just a small taste of the intellectual smorgasbord contained in this volume.
Did you know:
that in the original story of Goldilocks the bears torture and kill their impolite visitor?
that Pope Leo XIII appeared in an advertisement for cocaine-laced wine in the 1880s?
that people didn't eat with forks until the 1700s?
that Sir Isaac Newton's famous humble-pie quote "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" was actually written to a dwarf scientist named Robert Hooke and clearly meant as an insult?
that Thomas Edison secretly helped develop the electric chair in a scheme to have the lethal machine named after his arch-rival, George Westinghouse?
that the first pediatric guide written in the United States recommended that expectant mothers breastfeed puppies?
that for two centuries French scientists obsessively experimented on freshly decapitated heads in an effort to discover whether the bodiless brain still functioned?
that Cleopatra was ugly as sin?
From the Hardcover edition.
More About the Author
His whole life he has felt torn between the seedy and the high brow. He is a born contrarian. His books reflect that, with topics ranging from Joan of Arc's virginity tests to a vindication of Captain Kidd, from Edison's electric chair to Mark Twain's erotic writings. .
Zacks spent the decade of the 1980s as a journalist, writing a widely syndicated newspaper column, as well as freelance pieces for the likes of The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, and he brings a who, what, when, where and an occasional why to his writing of historical narrative. The N.Y. Times, commenting on his first book, "History Laid Bare", stated that Zacks "specializes in the raunchy and perverse." That was two decades ago; he has perhaps evolved since then. His second book, "An Underground Education" became a cult hit; his third book "Pirate Hunter" has sold more than 175,000 copies and TIME magazine chose it among the five best non-fiction books of the year. Zacks has also appeared in four documentaries.
Tall, bald, spry, he still plays full court basketball at age fifty-six, and does his writing in an office, overlooking Union Square Park in Manhattan.
Top Customer Reviews
Richard Zacks explodes our often mythic look at the world. This is not just another "your teacher lied to you in school" book. Zacks backs up his own history with actual primary source documentation. As he writes, "I started muttering, 'You can't make this stuff up!'."
Zacks has divided the book into ten different sections: Arts & Literature, Business, Crime & Punishment, Everyday Life, Medicine, Religion, Science, Sex, World History, and American History. While each section can be read separately, it may be hard to put down the book after just one helping. Zacks covers a wide range of topics, but always keeps his writing simple and unpedestrian. You quickly realize that all of these icons in history were actually people just like you and me. Mata Hari was no genius spy, her mug shot taken before her execution shows a plain woman in her early forties.
William Shakespeare used to write down to his common audiences, letting loose with filthy puns lost on today's students. Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin, two of America's greatest humorists, both worked blue, writing material that you will not see in copies of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" or "Poor Richard's Almanack." You think Iraqi war profiteering is something new? Pity the poor soldiers of the Civil War, eating rancid meat and trying to fight with ancient weaponry all sold to the United States government by greedy business tycoons.Read more ›
Well, maybe not Dad. I had intended this to be a Christmas present for my father, but when I received my copy, I realized that there was a problem. "An Underground Education" is littered with photographs, and while that sounds good, there are castrated men (full frontal), lots of early porn, and all sorts of other fascinating and freaky things. It's all very interesting, except that I cannot even begin to imagine giving it to my father...
It's still a good read, though, and I highly recommend it. Just not as a gift for ol' Dad.
Zacks investigatges obscure tidbits from history, science, art, etc; and writes a very imforative book. THe nice thing is he tells you all his sources for information in the back, so if you do not believe him you can check it out.
Now normally, one would assume that a book of facts would be boring. This is not the case! Its really funny. He writes as if he's your uncle Larry telling you a funny ancedote at the dinner table. It is a hilarious, eye-opening book.
Some of the things he writes about are:
George Washington did not have wooden teeth....
And he was not the first president of the US...
Cleopatra was really ugly...
Edison and inventing the electric chair....
These are just a few of the ones that stuck out to me. THere are hundreds of these. The are written nice and short. This book is perfect if you want some light reading. It is very easy to just read a few blurbs (there might be 2 to a page average) or read a whole list of them. The book is also very organized and easy to find. If you are only intersted in science and nature, you can just turn to that section. If business, or art, or history, or sex, only intersts you, you can just turn to that.
The index is also very inclusive.
I do not think this book is good for children. There are some very racy topics. But they are done in a tasteful manner. A mature high schoool student could handle this, but I would not give it to a middle school or gradeschooler. Its not a dirty book but it does mention some controversial topics like sappho's sexual orientation and the presence of hermaphrodites in ancient greek art.Read more ›
For example, in his discussion of the long-toed shoes, or poulaines, which he rightly places after his juicily giddy discussion of codpieces, he fails to explore the equally juicy history of the poulaines; European folk beliefs equated foot-fize with penis-size (think also of noses...) and the tips of the poulaines were thus phallic symbols. The tops of poulaines were also often painted with images of male genitals.
The author also fails completely to discuss (was he even aware) the female-analogue of the codpiece: the merkin, or a wig for the pubes...One has to dig for this sort of information. To look at the bibliography, the author consults with, at most, two or three sources when writing his entries. In effect, he has done little of his own research, despite crowing about his own linguistic abilities. Ovid's Ars Amatoria surely belongs somewhere in this book; sadly, Latin is not listed as one of the author's mastered languages. There are good translations, to be sure.
Another example: Mr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is so fascinating it told you things you didn't know and things you might not want to know. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
As a history buff, I liked this book. An enjoyable read if you are looking for short, entertaining snippets from the past.Published 5 months ago by Michelle Baugher
Amazing book - a must-read! Not your average book of facts. Makes for interesting conversation topics as well!Published 6 months ago by PinkProzac16
After lending it to a friend & never returned-this is one of the few books I've happily replaced twice!Published 8 months ago by Yvette A. Lozano
Awesome book!!! I keep having to order more because my friends keep taking it from me to read and never return itPublished 10 months ago by John F. Klopfer
My granddaughter was required to get this book for a college class. When the semester ended, I read it. Very interesting concept.Published 14 months ago by Beverly B. Forbes