Category Archives: In Brief

Experiment Eleven–Peter Pringle

The book: Experiment Eleven: Dark Secrets Behind the Discovery of a Wonder Drug (Walker, 2012) by Peter Pringle

The crux: The story of a Rutgers graduate student who discovered the “wonder drug” streptomycin—the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis—only to have his professor and advisor claim credit for the milestone discovery.

The context: At the urging of his family, Albert Schatz fought hard against his accomplished adviser Selman Waksman, who won media attention, royalties, and in 1952 the Nobel Prize for research on farmyard soil bacteria conducted by young Schatz. A shameful and outrageous moment in the history of American science, the affair involved many Establishment spin doctors—including Rutgers’ public relations officers—determined to marginalize and blackball the young student.

Take home: An engaging account of excellent science and flawed human beings.

-Joseph Barbato

A Saving Remnant – Martin Duberman

The book: A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds by Martin Duberman

The crux: The story of two gay writer-activists who played central roles in the radical politics of the 1960s.

The context: Friends and allies in the disarmament, civil rights, and antiwar movements, Deming (1917-84) and McReynolds, 81, struggled with their homosexuality in the pre-Stonewall years.  She wrote on nonviolence for Partisan Review and The Nation; he played a major role at Liberation magazine and the War Resisters League.  Their stories capture the period and the lives of the committed, including Bayard Rustin and Dave Dellinger.

In 2000, McReynolds ran for President on the Socialist Party ticket, describing himself as “a badly read Marxist and a Gandhian pacifist who never found the perfect formula to blend Marx and Gandhi.”

Take home: A revealing portrait of two courageous and engaged individuals.

The Conversation Continues – Bill Moyers

The book: Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, by Bill Moyers

The crux: A guide to the debates and cultural currents of our time through interviews with nearly 50 writers, activists, poets and thinkers, including Michael Pollan, David Simon, Jane Goodall, Karen Armstrong, Barbara Ehrenreich, Howard Zinn, W.S. Merwin, Thomas Cahill, Louise Erdrich, Robert Bly, and Jim Hightower.

The context: A winner of Emmy and Peabody Awards, Moyers is a leading American journalist best known for his groundbreaking series on public TV. These thoughtful conversations are drawn from his public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, broadcast from 2007 to 2010.

Q&A: David Simon, creator of The Wire (HBO)

Are you cynical?

“I am very cynical about institutions and their willingness to address themselves to reform. I am not cynical when it comes to individuals and people. And I think the reason The Wire is watchable, even tolerable, to viewers is that it has great affection for those people, particularly when they stand up on their hind legs and say, ‘I will not lie anymore. I am actually going to fight for what I perceive to be some shard of truth.’”

Take home: Moyers has been conducting the American conversation for years. These recent installments provoke, engage, and enlighten.