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.

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.