Chomsky and Me: A Memoir
Bev Stohl ran the MIT office of the renowned linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky for nearly two and a half decades. This is her account of those years, working next to a man described by the New York Times as “arguably the most important intellectual alive today.”
Through these pages we observe the comings and goings of a constant and varied stream of visitors: the historian Howard Zinn; activists Alex Carey, Peggy Duff, and Dorie Ladner; the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners Lee; actors Catherine Keener and Wallace Shawn; the writer Norman Mailer; gaggles of fourteen-year-old school students, and the world’s leading linguists. All make appearances in these stories. Many who visit are as careless of their allotted time as Chomsky is generous with his. Shepherding them out in mid-conversation is one of Bev’s more challenging responsibilities.
Other duties include arranging lectures to overflow crowds around the world, keeping unscrupulous journalists at bay, preventing teetering ziggurats of paper and books from engulfing her boss, and switching on his printer when it is deemed “broken” by a mind that is engaged less by mundane technology than the realms of academia and activism.
Over the years, what has commenced as a formal working arrangement blossoms into something more: a warm and enduring friendship that involves work trips to Europe, visits with her partner and dog to Noam’s summer home on Cape Cod, and a mentorship that challenges Bev with all manner of intriguing mental and practical puzzles.
Published with the approval of its subject and written with affection, insight and a gentle sense of humor, Chomsky and Me describes a relationship between two quite different people who, through the happenstance of work, form a bond that is both surprising and reciprocally rich.
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