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Reviews in Brief
The Best on the Greatest
All about Ali.
By Kenneth L. Shropshire
THE MUHAMMAD ALI READER
Edited by Dr. Gerald L. Early, C'74
New York: Ecco Press, 1998. 320 pp., $26.00.
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"Ali, as a result of his touching, or poignant, or pathetic, or tragic (take your pick) appearance at the torch-lighting ceremony at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta has become, for new generations that did not grow up with him and for the older generations that did, the Great American Martyr," writes Gerald Early, in his editor's introduction to The Muhammad Ali Reader. After reading the articles that follow one can more knowledgeably decide what the real impact of that most memorable of television moments actually was. To me, it was a cruelly painful event.
It would be difficult for me, and others of my generation and race, I suspect, not to like a collection of the best writings on Muhammad Ali. As Early, the Merle S. Kling Professor of Modern Letters in Arts and Sciences and director of the African and Afro-American Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis, amplifies, Ali means a lot to many different people for many different reasons. For example, if you are black and came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, Ali said and did what many of us could only dream about. He exemplified the black power others of the day merely gave lip service to.
Presented chronologically, Early's selection of articles brings out the highlights of Ali's life through the words of others, including notables such as Joyce Carol Oates, Hunter S. Thompson, Ishmael Reed, and George Plimpton as well as unexpected writers like Jackie Robinson and Floyd Patterson. As anyone with a passing knowledge of Ali would guess, this is not just a book on boxing. Early's introduction places, for those not fully aware, the life of Ali in political context.
The timeline begins with the antics of the young Cassius Clay prior to the Sonny Liston fight; his transition to Islam and the name Muhammad Ali; his stance against the war in Vietnam and the draft; the "Rumble in the Jungle," made famous by the Academy Award-winning documentary, When We Were Kings; and finally, the peace that Ali has found in his current state of illness.
Who is the young Cassius Clay who became Ali, who is lodged permanently in my memory and that of other fortysomething black Americans? In an interview reprinted in the Reader, Ali told Black Scholar during his three-year boxing commission-imposed absence from the sport: "I was determined to be one nigger that the white man didn't get. One nigger, that you didn't get, white man. You understand? One nigger you ain't going to get. One nigger you ain't going to get."
Those types of words are in the forefront of my memory. When I saw Ali lighting the Olympic flame my instant thoughts were close to, "They got him, they want everybody to see that they got him, and he can't really convey that they 'ain't' got him." In his prime, it was Ali and us against what A. Bartlett Giamatti referred to in his essay "Hyperbole's Child" as "the white hostile mass." Early's collection reminded me that in the past Ali would have had a microphone in his face -- probably held by his foil, broadcaster Howard Cosell -- and would have let us know, "What's going on here is what I want to go on." Ali, for once in his life, left the interpretation up to us. Here it was, in Early's introductory words, that my complex feelings about the reconstructed Ali were shared by others.
My memory is full of the hate and disdain that were held for Ali, not so much for his position against the war, although support for that stance was not overwhelmingly forthcoming, but for this brash racial edge. Murray Kempton writes in his essay "The Champ and the Chump," "Liston used to be a hoodlum: now he was our cop; he was the big Negro we pay to keep sassy Negroes in line and he was just waiting until his boss told him it was time to throw this kid out."
How had Ali become the cop? As Early's essay selections set out, we appreciate Ali now, all of us, for what he did. For what he sacrificed. Early refers to this as the "Hemingway-esque version" of reality: "one's measure of authenticity was not how one lived one's life in the face of what made it impossible but how deeply one felt about something." Ali gave up an athletic success that none of us could contemplate. "Ali always had a portion of something Hemingway-esque but he had more than a bit of sheer adolescent emotionalism. Ali's reasons for not wanting to join the Army were never terribly convincing but they had a potency because he was so sincere, movingly and petulantly so."
On this point, too, Early puts Ali into perspective. Sure, Ali lost three years for not serving in the war, but a long list of athletes, including Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Joe Louis, Hank Greenberg and Christy Mathewson "lost several years of their athletic prime, serving in the Armed Forces during World War I, World War II, or the Korean War. No one seems to think this was tragic." In this sense, Ali is not the martyr he is often made out to be. But to dwell on that reality would take away the full glow of the greatest of all time.
No athlete, and some, including Ali, would say, no individual, has ever been as famous. How well known has Ali become? In his own words, while on a plane in conversation with writer Bob Greene, Ali said, "It's a funny feeling to look down on the world and know that every person knows me. Sometimes I think about hitchhiking around the world, with no money, and just knocking on a different door every time I needed a meal or a place to sleep. I could do it." I do not doubt that he could. This collection convincingly makes clear why both the older and new generations of all backgrounds would, and have, anxiously let Ali in.
Regarding that Olympic torch lighting ceremony, maybe I am just too protective of that image that remains so important to me and others. That powerful Ali figure was in many ways shattered in Atlanta in 1996. I would be wrong, however, to deny Ali that moment. David Maraniss writes in the final essay, "Ali's Amazing Grace," "Long after the torch scene was over, Ali would not let go ... Ali would not go to sleep. He was still holding the long white and gold torch, which he had kept as a prized memento. He cradled it in his arms, turning it over and over ... " His wife Lonnie added, " ... he was on such a high. He found it hard to come back down to earth. There was just such a fabulous response. No one expected that. None of us did."
The Muhammad Ali Reader provides new insights on the man, even new insights for the most ardent of his fans.
Kenneth L. Shropshire is an associate professor of legal studies at the Wharton School and acting director of the University's Afro-American Studies Program. He is the author of In Black and White: Race and Sports in America and the forthcoming book Basketball Jones.Bad Medicine
When the drug you take to get better makes you worse.
By Harry Goldstein
BITTER PILLS: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs
By Stephen Fried, C'79
New York: Bantam Books, 1998.
432 pp., $24.95.
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With the intense media hype surrounding the success of anti-angiogenesis therapies in treating cancer in mice alongside the whirly-gig of erectile mania sweeping the country after the introduction of Viagra, Stephen Fried's new book, Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs, is just what the doctor ordered -- a sobering reality check.
Fried, an award-winning journalist, has had painful firsthand experience of the hazardous world of legal medicines. In 1992, his wife, Diane Ayres, was given samples of Floxin, a strong antibiotic, to alleviate a minor urinary tract infection. She was never the same. Her initial reaction to a single pill included a feeling of "melting" behind her eyes, insomnia, visual distortions, and severe aphasia. Later her symptoms devolved into a persistent manic-depression that kept her from working and launched Fried on a quest that led him through the FDA bureaucracy in search of answers to how Floxin got approved in the first place.
As Fried points out, far more people die each year from Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) to prescription and over-the-counter medications than succumb to all illegal drug use. While illicit drugs kill anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 Americans per year, deaths from legal drugs are estimated to range from 45,000 to more than 200,000 per year. ADR is a silent epidemic. As far as the drug companies are concerned, mum's the word.
While Fried probes the circumstances of his wife's ADR, he eventually uncovers how Floxin, one of a class of antibiotics known as quinolones, came to be approved. Obscure research articles in peer-reviewed medical journals warn against the potential for quinolones to be overprescribed. One in particular urged that quinolones be restricted to difficult-to-treat infections -- in clear contrast to the marketing literature that recommended Floxin for "broad use against common infections."
After thoroughly dissecting the New Drug Application for Floxin submitted by Johnson & Johnson's Ortho/McNeil subsidiary, Fried finds startling evidence of observed Central Nervous System (CNS) reactions -- similar to the ones Diane and other "Floxies" had reported experiencing -- buried in the Phase I, II, and III human drug trial reports. Armed with loads of research and anecdotal evidence, Fried testified at an FDA panel convened to address the problems surrounding Floxin and pushed for labeling changes that would warn doctors of the possible CNS effects of the drug. Even after Fried's Philadelphia magazine article about Diane's experience won a National Magazine Award, all Fried's notoriety garnered in the end was a minor editorial change on the box insert that, apparently, few physicians -- and even fewer patients -- ever read.
Why would a busy doctor bother reading a label when the pharmaceutical company field reps, known in the business as detail men, are there to spoon-feed him or her all the information the company deems relevant about the drug while sipping the finest wines at expensive restaurants or chomping on a hot dog at a complimentary pro basketball game? Drug makers actually spend more promoting drugs than they do researching them. "As an industry, pharmaceutical manufacturers spent $10 billion on marketing, but only $9 billion a year on research and development," says Fried, and more than half of the medicines the R&D money is spent on are copycat or "me-too" drugs.
In fact, as Dr. Raymond Woolsey of Georgetown University, one of the foremost experts on drug safety in the United States, tells Fried: "Very little [money] is put into Phase IV kinds of questions -- 'what are the long term side effects of drugs, how do they effect different genders, different races?' ... [W]e can predict ahead of time, with a lot of drugs, who will have those bad reactions like your wife did. But a company would never fund the research, because they are afraid it would limit the way doctors would have to use their drug. They want a completely nonthinking doctor."
Not only is very little money expended on researching the effects of drugs after they're approved, almost no testing is done on women, as Fried learns at a conference on gender and drug development organized by the FDA's Office of Women's Health. The news is just as grim for the pharmacology of non-whites. Fried notes that the infamous Tuskegee experiments had a chilling effect on potential black test subjects -- with the result that most volunteers for human drug trials in the United States are young, white males -- and shows that companies looking for the answers they want often skew the test results that are reported on this minority population.
Fried also includes a chapter on the FDA's 1995 approval of a version of the acne medicine Retin-A as a prescription-only treatment for wrinkles -- from which, he notes, a "big chunk" of the profits would go to the University, where Retin-A was originally discovered by Dr. Albert Kligman, now emeritus professor of dermatology. Kligman developed the drug while testing primarily African American inmates at North Philadelphia's Holmesburg prison during the 1960s; the tests, which have been compared to the Tuskegee experiments, were shut down in the early seventies under congressional pressure. Fried braved the January 1996 Northeast blizzard to interview an unrepentant Kligman -- who insists he would do the prison experiments again, "provided there was a review by intelligent people" -- at his Jersey shore home.
Perhaps the most stinging indictment of the pharmaceutical industry comes when Fried investigates Floxin's sister quinolone, Omniflox, which was withdrawn by its maker, Abbott Laboratories, just months after its introduction in January 1992. After an exhaustive review of thousands of pages of documents relating to the drug, Fried lays his hands on the smoking gun: "It was called Table 7 and was innocuously titled 'List of Temafloxacin Patients with Certain Adverse Events for Phase II and III Oral Studies.' The 'certain adverse events' were nearly the exact same ones for which the drug would be withdrawn: blood disorders and organ failures." As Fried later notes, "Omniflox was withdrawn from the market for having the identical safety profile it displayed in clinical trials."
Fried goes out of his way to emphasize that everything about legal drugs isn't bad. He relates how during the course of his investigations he was administered drugs for walking pneumonia. He also details the thrilling R&D adventures of doctors searching for the drug cocktail that is now successfully managing AIDS. And he speaks with a number of people trying to check drug companies, including Dr. Frances Kelsey, most famous for her role in uncovering the horrors of thalidomide before the drug was approved for use in the United States.
Not only is Bitter Pills a fascinating look inside the political economy of the legal drug world, it's a rare glimpse into journalistic process: how leads are tracked down, the tedium of poring over thousands of pages of documents, the endless interviews, and the ethical challenges of trying to report fairly about a system that's done you great personal harm.
Harry Goldstein is a freelance writer in New York. He profiled Internet pioneer Dr. David Farber in the March 1997 Gazette.
A selection of recent books by alumni and
faculty, or otherwise of interest to the University community. Descriptions are compiled from information supplied by the authors and publishers.
By Aileen Sallom Freeman, CW'52.
Paupack, Pa.: FOSI Ltd., 1998.
316 pp., $14.95.
Where the tanner and the logger once clear-cut their way across Pennsylvania's woods, the forest floor is now carpeted with luxurious laurel blooms every June. Canadensis speaks of the time when Jay Gould, Erie Railroad, Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad, and the quest for "The Black Stones that Burn" -- Scranton and Wilkes-Barre anthracite coal -- reigned supreme. Freeman is a professional artist and author of three other books.
FORT DONELSON'S LEGACY:
War and Society in Kentucky and Tennessee, 1862-1863
By Benjamin Franklin Cooling, Gr'69.
Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 1997. 420 pp., $38.00.
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Cooling portrays the tapestry of war and society in the upper southern heartland of Tennessee and Kentucky after the key Union victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862. Those victories, the author notes, could have delivered the decisive blow to the Confederacy in the West and ended the war in that theater. Instead, what followed was terrible devastation and bloodshed that embroiled soldier and civilian alike. Cooling, research director for the U.S. Department of Energy, is also professor of history at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University. He is author of three other Civil War books, including Monocacy: The Battle That Saved Washington, also published in 1997 (White Mane Publishing).
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL PROCESS:
Economic Growth, Men, Women,
By Paul D. Reynolds and Sammis B. White, GCP'67, Gr'71.
Westport, Conn: Quorum Books, 1997.
256 pp., $59.95.
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Entrepreneurship is an extremely important, but little understood, component of the U.S. economy. This book aids that understanding by exploring the challenges and outcomes of the start-up phases of new firms. This is the first detailed, large-scale, longitudinally-based analysis of the entrepreneurial process. Three representative samples of new firms and two representative samples of nascent entrepreneurs are used to consider a variety of factors that affect successful completion of the major transitions in the life of new businesses: conception, birth, and early development. Surprisingly, a substantial minority of start-ups become operational new firms. Among the lessons the authors learn are that, although new firm growth appears to reflect many factors, initial size is of special consequence. Not only are many general insights for entrepreneurs revealed, but the authors also pay special attention to the involvement of women and minorities in entrepreneurship and suggest effective government policy for different stages in the entrepreneurial process. White is professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
I AM MY BROTHER'S KEEPER:
Volunteers in Israel's
War for Independence, 1947-1949
By Jeffrey Weiss and Craig Weiss, C'95.
Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Military History, 1998. 288 pp., $29.95.
Based on recently declassified documents and more than 200 interviews, this book tells the story of more than 1,000 Americans and Canadians, Jews and non-Jews, who fought in Israel's War of Independence. The first commander of the Israeli Navy was Paul Shulman, an Annapolis graduate. The first general in the Israeli Army was West Pointer Mickey Marcus. And the Israeli Air Force's first test pilot was Slick Goodlin, the man who flew the X-1 experimental aircraft before Chuck Yeager. These volunteers and many others served in all branches of the Israel Defense Forces and were critical to Israel's victory. Most of Israel's fighter and heavy bomber pilots were North Americans, and Israel would not have had an effective air force without them. In other areas, the Americans and Canadians provided invaluable technical expertise and combat experience. Thirty-eight of the volunteers lost their lives in the struggle for a Jewish state; others were wounded or ended up as prisoners of war of the Jordanian and Egyptian armies. Jeffrey Weiss, a Phoenix attorney, and Craig Weiss, a student at Arizona State University College of Law, have each spent several years in Israel and are fluent in Hebrew.
TAKING HOLD OF TORAH
By Arnold Eisen, C'73.
Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1997. 208 pp., $24.95.
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Eisen, professor and chair of religious studies at Stanford University, makes the plea for -- and gives a vision of -- the revitalization of American Judaism by means of a renewed relationship to Jewish tradition and the strengthening of the Jewish community on all levels.
As Alan Dershowitz did in The Vanishing Jew in America, Eisen looks at issues relating to assimilation and the erosion of American Jewish communities. But where Dershowitz provided a decidedly secular answer to the problem, Eisen takes an approach that goes back to the most basic roots of Judaism: the timeless teachings of the Torah and the lessons they can provide to contemporary American Jews. He speaks directly to Jews in search of a new relationship to their tradition, drawing on his own experiences growing up in Philadelphia, attending Oxford for postgraduate studies, encountering Israel, and living as an engaged member of the American Jewish community. Steeped in knowledge both classical and contemporary, Eisen offers reflections on widespread concerns such as balancing autonomy and community, raising kids, re-thinking Jewish education, revitalizing synagogues, and facing up to faith and doubt.
AND LANGUAGE POLICY
By Harold Schiffman, Faculty.
New York: Routledge, 1998.
351 pp., $29.95.
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Language policy, argues Schiffman in this book -- first published in 1996 and now released in paperback -- is primarily a social construct, and as such rests primarily on other conceptual elements -- belief systems, attitudes, myth, the whole complex that is referred to as linguistic culture. This also recognizes the role of language as the main vehicle of the construction, replication, and transmission of culture itself. And though language itself is a cultural construct, this does not imply that it can be deconstructed, changed, or radically altered by the application of particular political scrutinies of one sort or another. Language (and languages) mean different things to different people, and policy-formulation is often vague and ill-defined. Perhaps the main contribution of this book, Schiffman believes, is to view language policy as not only the explicit embodiment of rules in laws or constitutions, but as a broader entity, rooted in implicit practices that go deep into the culture. In the end, every language policy is culture-specific, and it is in the study of linguistic culture that we will come to understand why language policies evolve the way they do, why they work (or do not work) the way they are planned to work, and how peoples' lives are affected by them. The real challenge in the study of language policy, according to Schiffman, is that there are so many variables that must be dealt with, and that simplistic notions or one-note theories cannot hope to capture the complexity that is language and linguistic culture. Schiffman is director of the Penn Language Center and a professor of South Asian studies.
GOURMET TO GO:
A Guide to Opening and Operating
a Specialty Food Store
By Robert Wemischner, C'72,
and Karen Karp.
New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., l998.
318 pp., $44.95.
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This book provides an in-depth examination of the process that prospective specialty food entrepreneurs must follow to open and operate a successful business in today's economic climate. It gives readers a substantial grounding in the realities of planning for success in this highly dynamic, demanding, and trend-driven industry, and it contains instructive and illuminating stories behind several of the most influential stores, along with quotes from retailers, large and small, who are pace-setters in the field. It also describes how to write a persuasive and thorough business plan, raise capital, negotiate a lease, find, train, and retain key staff, and build customer loyalty. Wemischner teaches professional baking in the culinary arts program at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.
THE SCIENCE AND ART
OF LIVING A LONGER
AND HEALTHIER LIFE
By Carl E. Bartecchi, M.D., M'64, and Robert W. Schrier, M.D.
Dallas, Texas: EMIS Medical Publishers, 1997. 207 pp., $14.95.
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With the idea that the best doctor is yourself, Bartecchi and Schrier, a physician team for more than a decade, have written this book to make the best scientific and practical information available for individuals who desire to make reasonable efforts to extend the quality and length of their lives. They cover such topics as "Aspirin: The Magic Potion?", "Alcohol: Do Benefits Outweigh the Dangers?", stroke prevention, bone disease, and domestic violence. Bartecchi, a practitioner of internal medicine for more than 30 years, is clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Schrier has been professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado for 20 years.
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