Tue November 22, 2011
"The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" (Encore presentation.)
By Rich Fisher
Tulsa, OK – (Note: This show first aired earlier this year.) On today's program, we speak by phone with Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, a writer, researcher, and cancer physician based at Columbia University. His hefty, impressively documented book, "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer," was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction last year. Now, the book has appeared in paperback. The following starred review from Booklist is typical of the glowing acclaim this volume received when it first came out: "Apparently researching, treating, and teaching about cancer isn't enough of a challenge for Columbia University cancer specialist Mukherjee. He was also moved to write a biography of a disease whose name, for millennia, could not be uttered. The eminently readable result is a weighty tale of an enigma that has remained outside the grasp of both the people who endeavored to know it and those who would prefer never to have become acquainted with it. An unauthorized biography told through the voices of people who have lived, toiled, and, yes, died under cancer's inexorable watch. Mukherjee recounts cancer's first known literary reference --- hence its birth, so to speak --- in the teachings of the Egyptian physician Imhotep in the twenty-fifth century BCE, in which it is clear that Imhotep possessed no tools with which to treat what appears to be breast cancer. His cryptic note under 'Therapy:' 'There is none.' Throughout cancer's subsequent years, many more physicians and scientists with names both familiar and obscure attempted and occasionally succeeded in deciphering or unlocking keys to many of the disease's mysteries. Alas, this is not a posthumous biography, but it is nonetheless a surprisingly accessible and encouraging narrative."