Under the Radar: Cancer and the Cold War

The ghost of Irma Natanson is felt throughout Under the Radar, Ellen Leopold?s unsettling investigation into the effects of Cold War ideology on cancer care. Natanson was a 34-year-old housewife and mother in Kansas when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1955; after a radical mastectomy, she became perhaps the first patient ever to undergo cobalt radiation therapy. The radiation left her severely burned and disabled for the remainder of her life, and she successfully sued her doctor for failing to warn her of the treatment?s risks. Leopold argues that patients like Natanson were unwitting guinea pigs in government-supported experiments to establish the limits of human tolerance for radiation, a pressing concern as nuclear weapons were being developed. The author delves deeply into radiation?s dual position as both cause of and cure for cancer, examining everything from radioactive fallout to the alliance between government and industry to encourage the development of medical technologies with a "close affinity to weapons programs." She even sees the Cold War connection reflected in the militaristic language still used to describe "battles" with cancer (and, on the flip side, the common ?50s formulation referring to the "cancer of communism," which didn?t just spread but "metastasized"). "What alternative...approaches have fallen by the wayside, lacking the kind of heavy-duty institutional backing granted to radiotherapies?" Leopold asks, forcing some uncomfortable questions about all of the roads not taken in cancer prevention and treatment.

April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.