- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (5 July 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099428334
- ISBN-13: 978-0099428336
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 311,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations Paperback – 5 Jul 2001
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Author of Snake Oil, John Diamond, believed journalism to be an ephemeral thing: "If I wanted to write for posterity's sake, I'll start another unfinishable book." Sadly, he did. At the time of his death, on March 2, 2001, Diamond had written six chapters of Snake Oil. Intended to be "an uncomplimentary view of complementary medicine", he was spurred into writing the book by the 5,000 letters he received suggesting alternative cures for his terminal cancer.
In the book Diamond sets out to prove that the protagonists of alternativism are, at best, gullible and misguided, at worst, con-merchants and quacks. The uncompleted book ends with the words: "Let me explain." Unfortunately, he wasn't given the chance. The remainder of the book is made up from a selection of Diamond's articles and columns, which, edited by brother-in-law Dominic Lawson, were chosen on "the basis of his humour rather than his tumour". As a freelancer, Diamond wrote about anything for anyone. Consequently, the "preoccupations" cover every subject under the sun, including soggy bread, middle age , donor cards, first dates and bottled water: " ... the perfect accompaniment to good food and fine wines, it can even be served as a refreshing drink in its own right". But, post diagnosis, it's Diamond's columns for The Times which hit home hardest. As his condition progresses, Diamond remains stoically reflective without ever sounding resentful; always moving, but never maudlin, his insouciant prose conveys a humbling bravery. John Diamond may have considered journalism to be a transitory art form, but as this collection of his work shows, his writing makes an indelible impression. --Christopher Kelly
From the Back Cover
John Diamond died on March 2nd, 2001. He was one of Britain's most prolific journalists, columnists and broadcasters, having worked for most of the national papers and presented numerous radio and television series. For seven years he wrote an immensely popular weekly column in The Times which, since his diagnosis with cancer, was given over to following that disease's progress.
At the time of his death, he had completed six chapters of what was to be 'an uncomplimentary look at the world of complementary medicine'. These chapters, based on his own experience and on researched fact, are both personal and poignant, hard hitting and controversial, tackling the issues raised by alternative medicine with total candour and his usual wit.
Including a selection of articles and his columns from The Times, the Jewish Chronicle and other publications, Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations, compiled and edited by Dominic Lawson, contains the best of John's writing.
By author of the bestselling C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too.
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Top Customer Reviews
I am tempted to say that it is a pity that many of the essays and articles with which the book is padded out, are of inferior quality. But on reflection, I think that is all to the good. Frivolous articles written by Diamond from one week to another, intended for momentary amusement only, gradually give way to his profound and moving articles on the subject of his cancer. It all makes you think about what sells newspapers and what's worth reading. Should you enrich your life with a jokey article about a boring hotel room, or a harrowing article about having your tongue removed? Crystal therapy or chemotherapy? By offering us logic and reason, Diamond may strike some readers as pessimistic and negative. For those who want to know the truth, however painful, his book is a valuable tonic. By the end of his life, when his tongue had been removed, Diamond had at last truly found his voice and he had something important to say.
The collection of articles selected by the editors, which follows, are a mix of some that deal with his failing health and some that don't. All very readable and witty.
Disappointing that there appears to be some overlap between this and "C" (or do I remember some pieces from elsewhere?), given the huge amount of great work he produced you would have thought this was unnecessary.
Meantime John Diamond acknowledges the common sense that a massage and nice smells may well help you to feel better but these are not healing or curative per se.
I do feel that tis book should not have included pieces of work on subjects other than complementary medicine and his cancer. On the other hand, his writing is such a delight that I can hardly be sorry - his story of the Yiddish computer repairer, for example, was excellent!
Diamond showed huge moral courage in rejecting the solace given by comfortable lies, the 'credo consolans' upon which outmoded therapies and equally outmoded alternatives to rationality thrive. His final broadside against the various hucksters, quacks and fools that peddle their snake oils to the vulnerable is cut off in mid flow, but nevertheless makes many telling and unanswerable points. He was maybe half way through an onslaught which may have saved his fellow man much unnecessary suffering, but now we must await the next great populariser to pick up the baton and show defiance in the face of the inevitable. Otherwise the public distrust of scientists in general and doctors in particular will allow the alternativists to continue their pernicious trade indefinitely.
Unfortunately, the publishers have filled a further 200 pages with articles generally unrelated to the central thesis of the book rather than, say, commissioning fresh material from other rational opponents of quackery, bringing the whole squalid truth into public view. Now that would have been a fitting epitaph to a remarkable life.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Disappointed, under the impression this was an argument against alternative medicine, started off that way then tailed off into a series of excerpts from his Times column, there... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Paul McVeigh
John Diamond is the author of this book and a profilic journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He was also the first husband of Nigella Lawson, and said to be the driving force... Read morePublished on 9 Jan. 2014 by The Pegster
This is a compilation of some of the journal articles by John Diamond who was diagnosed of Cancer . Read morePublished on 26 May 2013 by T L
I came to this from a recommended book list in Richard Dawkins' "A Devil's Chaplain" and I must say that I found it disappointing. Read morePublished on 5 Aug. 2009 by ianscardiff
Tony Dougan - all Prof. Dawkins is asking is whether some of the huge profits generated by these "therapies", which have no scientific basis, could be put back into testing whether... Read morePublished on 19 Dec. 2007 by Mark Till
A rigorous but accessible de-bunking of alternative medicine, which is a great contrast to the credulous coverage of the issue in most of the popular media. Read morePublished on 26 Aug. 2001
It's about time that someone wrote a book debunking the popular myth of "alternative" medicine. There can surely be no better person to write such a book. Read morePublished on 21 Aug. 2001
It's quite likely that if you want to read this book you have previously tackled John's earlier publication C: Because Cowards get Cancer Too. Read morePublished on 8 Aug. 2001
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