The Book Show S3 #21 Eula Biss, Tom Gauld and Neil Hegarty

This week on The Book Show Sinéad Gleeson talks to Eula Biss, the author of a book called On Immunity: An Inoculation (Fitzcaraldo Editions) which is a personal and political investigation into vaccination.

She began researching the topic while she was pregnant with her son but she soon found herself asking more questions than could be answered. The book is about anxiety, class and race.

Who vaccinates? Is it safe to do this? Who declines vaccinations?

According to Biss, the complex issue of vaccination is often marked along social and class lines and her book takes in places from all over the world where vaccination is a contentious issue.

Also, she explains to Sinéad that the term ‘conscientious objector’ arises out of debates about vaccination in the 19th century and we also hear about ‘vigilante vaccination’ – lollipops infected with chicken pox.

Eula Biss’ father was a doctor who believed in preventative medicine, as much as possible, but she says that writing the book has forced her to look at her own prejudices surrounding medicine. Especially when it comes to having a small child. Do you rush to the doctor at the first instant or illness? Isn’t over-medicating a bad thing? Being a mother brought Eula Biss into close contact with these questions.

Inch Levels (Head of Zeus) is a debut novel by Neil Hegarty and is set in Derry and the surrounding countryside.

It brings various family members from two generation around the deathbed of Patrick Jackson. They face his imminent demise as well as the guilt and secrets from their own past. Patrick looks back on his life. Neil Hegarty talks about his novels and he says it’s about the gaps between what is said and what is left unsaid. He adds that it’s a story about the consequences of love. We also hear the author read short extracts from the novel.


Tom Gauld is a British cartoonist and his new graphic novel Mooncop (Drawn and Quarterly) is about a lunar colony in slow decline. It’s policed by the mildly depressed Mooncop who has very little crime to do with but merely drives about drinking coffee and eating doughnuts. Tom tells Sinéad about how the quiet, cold and lonely atmosphere of the moon attracts him as a setting for his characters. He speaks about the way failing things make for better humour than happy things. He also explains his use of muted colours.

Broadcast on 08 October 2016