Fenster, Julie M. 1957-
Fenster, Julie M. 1957-
Born 1957. Education: Colgate University, B.A.
Home—NY. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and historian. Has worked for Syracuse Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY, and Automobile Quarterly, Princeton, NJ.
Anesthesia Foundation Book/ Multimedia Education Award, 2003, for Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It; Best Book Award, National Automotive Journalism Conference, for Packard: The Pride; Best Original Script, Audio Publishers Association, 1997, for Zeus: A Thunderbolt from the Sky.
Boston Guide, Open Road Publishing (New York, NY), 1997.
America's Grand Hotels, Open Road Publishing (New York, NY), 1998.
(Compiler) In the Words of Great Business Leaders, Wiley (New York, NY), 2000.
Everyday Money: How to Manage Your Money the Smart and Easy Way, GuildAmerica Books (Garden City, NY), 2000.
Yahoo! Ultimate Guide to Finance and Money on the Web: From Bonds to Bills, Mortgages to Mutual Funds, Credit to Car Loans, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
(With W. Randall Jones) Worth's Greatest Stock Picks of All Time: Lessons on Buying the Right Stock at the Right Time, Crown Business (New York, NY), 2002.
Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine: The Pioneers Who Risked Their Lives to Bring Medicine into the Modern Age, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2003.
Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2005.
Packard: The Pride, photography by Roy D. Query, design by Michael Pardo, Automobile Quarterly Publications (New Albany, IN), 2005.
(With Douglas Brinkley) Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism, Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributed column for Audacity (a business history magazine). Editor of the Forbes Collection Presidential Book Series. Member of editorial staff for Automobile Quarterly.
Contributed articles to periodicals, including American Heritage, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and American History.
Writer and historian Julie M. Fenster has been a frequent contributor to magazines and the author of books on business, medical, and social history, and automobiles. "I have refused to specialize," she told Laura T. Ryan, Syracuse Post-Standard contributor, "and I think the only thing that interests me, if you want to know the truth, is something that I didn't know about before and what I think hasn't been published before."
In Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It, Fenster tells the story of the three men who pioneered the use of anesthesia in surgical procedures. The trio includes Charles Jackson, better known as a geologist than a physician; Horace Wells, the first person to use nitrous oxide—a gas used as a mild anesthetic—in dentistry; and William Morton, who designed and built the first successful delivery device for administering ether to patients, but who also had a history as a con artist. The three men were at odds over who actually made the discovery of the highly flammable ether in the 1840s and who should benefit from it financially. Ultimately, Jackson, Wells, and Morton all died in tragic, diminished circumstances. Fenster also describes how Yale University students used ether as a recreational drug during the early nineteenth century and how firearms maker Samuel Colt raised money at an ether show where attendees could pay to get a whiff of the powerful anesthetic. Fenster "ably renders the three main characters, who typify that common nineteenth-century American combination of brilliance, ambition, and mental instability," remarked a Publishers Weekly critic.
Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine: The Pioneers Who Risked Their Lives to Bring Medicine into the Modern Age is a supplementary volume to a multipart documentary that aired on television on the History Channel. In the book, Fenster provides twenty stories of notable men and women whose work and discoveries significantly advanced medical knowledge. She "provides the necessary context for understanding the significance of her subjects' accomplishments in a readable, undemanding fashion," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Among her subjects are Wilhelm Roentgen, who discovered the X-ray and whose name became the term describing the type of ionizing radiation used in X-rays; Ian Wilmut, credited with cloning Dolly the sheep; Ignaz Semmelweis, who discovered that hand-washing by doctors could help prevent the spread of disease; anatomist Andreas Vesalius, who conducted pioneering work in the medical field in the sixteenth century; and Werner Forssmann, who developed the process of cardiac catheterization and actually performed the procedure on himself. Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine is divided into five sections: Understanding the Body, Germ Theory, Magic Bullets, The Mind, and Toward Better Surgery. Fenster explores the lives and accomplishments of notable individuals whose work fits into each of these categories. Fenster also profiles Mary Mallon, better known as "Typhoid Mary," who presented doctors with one of the most difficult medical challenges in history. "The book includes some vivid storytelling, lively quotations, and nice turns of phrase, with a variety of word derivations and other interesting tidbits," commented Barbara Gastel in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Fenster turns to business and social history with Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race. The story centers on the grand race across twenty-two thousand miles of sometimes unforgiving terrain, harsh weather, dangerous local inhabitants, and enforced isolation. "It's difficult to overstate the audacity of this project," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. At the time of the race, automobiles were still unreliable and could not be counted on to endure such a grueling course. Most roads were unpaved, rivers and ravines were not spanned by bridges, and automotive safety was negligible. Still, according to Fenster, public support ran high—more than fifty thousand spectators were on hand for the race's starting gun—and spectator enthusiasm helped propel the racers on through daunting obstacles. The international competitors all had deep motivations for participating: the French for maintaining their dominance from having won the prior year's race; the Germans for honoring their homeland; and the Americans for proving the strength and versatility of what was then a new industry. A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that "Fenster is a superb storyteller, taking the factual information of the race and investing it with wit and brio."
In Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism, Fenster and coauthor Douglas Brinkley offer a portrait of the nineteenth-century Connecticut priest who founded the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal benefits organization. McGivney, who lived from 1852 to 1890, is the first American-born priest to be considered for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. "Father McGivney had a brilliant understanding of the family, and each person within it," Fenster told Tim S. Hickey in an interview for the Knights of Columbus Web site. She added, "That was at the core of many of the things he did. As he designed it, the Knights of Columbus gave men the tools, both financial and spiritual, to make something better of their lives, especially as leaders in their families. In giving them an understanding of their relevance, Father McGivney's influence carried past Catholics to men of other faiths, as well."
Parish Priest earned generally strong reviews. John-Leonard Berg, writing in Library Journal, described the work as an "articulate and sensitively written biography," and a Publishers Weekly critic noted that Fenster and Brinkley present a "popular history that is accessible in style and respectful, albeit at times hagio-graphic, in tone." "Throughout their brief study," wrote Catholic Historical Review critic Dolores Liptak, "Brinkley and Fenster take pains to demonstrate how Father McGivney's commitment to each member of his parish was particularly notable. Using oral histories and court testimonies, for example, they illustrate the ways in which he demonstrated his interest in those in need." According to Arlington Catholic Herald contributor Fr. Terry Specht, the authors "have provided an important opportunity for the American Church at a very difficult time in our history: the opportunity for members of the clergy to use the life of Father McGivney as an examination of conscience and a standard for their own ministries, and an opportunity for the laity to reflect on the unique and amazing character of the American parish priest."
Fenster next turned her attention to a relatively little-known period in the life of the sixteenth president of the United States in The Case of Abraham Lincoln: AStory of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President. Fenster examines a sensational 1856 trial in Springfield, Illinois, in which Lincoln successfully defended a woman accused of conspiring with her lover to murder her husband. Fenster told Illinois Times contributor Samuel P. Wheeler that she also chose to write about 1856 because it was "a crucial year for Lincoln as a politician, being the year that he made the touchy decision to join the Republican Party. It is not over-covered in the Lincoln canon, by any means, yet it reflected a sea change in Lincoln's political fortunes, from the beginning of the year to the end." Myron A. Marty, writing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, stated: "The importance of The Case of Abraham Lincoln lies in the author's astute recounting and analysis" of Lincoln's political activities. A Kirkus Reviews contributor described the work as "an unexpected, odd-angle approach to Lincoln that proves marvelously insightful."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, April 10, 2006, Andrew Greeley, "Values over Rhetoric," review of Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism, p. 21.
American Heritage, June-July, 2005, "Cars, Cards, and Father: A Trio of American Heritage Authors Have Expanded Their Articles into Books," review of Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race, p. 16.
Arlington Catholic Herald (Arlington, VA), March 16, 2006, Fr. Terry Specht, "Pleasantly Surprised by a Parish Priest."
Biography, fall, 2001, David F. Musto, review of Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It, p. 999.
Catholic Historical Review, July, 2007, Dolores Liptak, review of Parish Priest, p. 724.
Catholic Insight, May, 2006, Joan Tardif, review of Parish Priest, p. 42.
Family Practice News, October 1, 2001, Joanne M. Berger, review of Ether Day, p. 27.
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, January, 2007, review of Parish Priest, p. 63.
Florida Bar Journal, February, 2008, David Mandell, review of The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President, p. 69.
Illinois Times, December 27, 2007, Samuel P. Wheeler, "Adultery, Murder, and Lincoln," review of The Case of Abraham Lincoln, and author interview, p. 69.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2003, review of Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine: The Pioneers Who Risked Their Lives to Bring Medicine into the Modern Age, p. 1002; April 1, 2005, review of Race of the Century, p. 397; August 1, 2007, review of The Case of Abraham Lincoln.
Library Journal, February 1, 2006, John-Leonard Berg, review of Parish Priest, p. 82; August 1, 2007, Randall M. Miller, review of The Case of Abraham Lincoln, p. 99.
New England Journal of Medicine, January 1, 2004, Barbara Gastel, review of Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine, p. 91.
Publishers Weekly, June 18, 2001, review of Ether Day, p. 69; May 2, 2005, review of Race of the Century, p. 191; November 14, 2005, review of Parish Priest, p. 12.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 16, 2007, Myron A. Marty, review of The Case of Abraham Lincoln.
Syracuse Post-Standard, January 10, 2008, Laura T. Ryan, "Juicy Tale of Honest Abe," review of The Case of Abraham Lincoln.
U.S. Catholic, July, 2006, Rachelle Linner, review of Parish Priest, p. 45.
American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Web site,http://www.asahq.org/ (July 15, 2008), "ASA Newsletter: Book/Multimedia Education Award," biography of Julie M. Fenster.
Catholic News Service Web site,http://www.catholicnews.com/ (March 9, 2006), John Thavis, "Author Says McGivney Bio Could Help Restore Respect for Priests," review of Parish Priest.
Catholic Sun Online,http://www.catholicsun.org/ (June 1, 2006), Fr. John T. Myler, "A Parish-Priest Saint from Hartford?," review of Parish Priest.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (July 1, 2008), Br. Benet Exton, review of Parish Priest.
Entertainment Weekly Online,http://www.ew.com/ (November 1, 2007), Michelle Kung, review of The Case of Abraham Lincoln.
Julie M. Fenster Home Page,http://jfenster.com (July 1, 2008).
Knights of Columbus Web site,http://www.kofc.org/ (July 1, 2008), Tim S. Hickey, "A Parish Priest: Nothing More … But Nothing Less," author interview.
Spiritual Woman Web site,http://www.spiritualwoman.net/ (July 1, 2008), Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, review of Parish Priest.