In 1952 Che Guevera, then a young medical student, took a motorcycle trip across South America. What he saw on that trip, specifically the poverty and inequities of the people there, turned his ambition from medicine to revolution. In 1996, Patrick Symmes, a U.S. journalist, set out on his own motorcycle journey, retracing Che’s tracks, hoping to discover the real Che under the layers of mythology. Chasing Che describes his trip. Unfortunately, the “real Che” remains elusive, and, in a sense, so does Symmes’ book. Part of the problem is that he can’t seem to decide what kind of book he is writing. Is it a biography? A travel book? A treatise on recent South American history? At various points, it is each of these. Yet most of the time, they exist almost as separate books.
In a few or the more transcendent chapters, Symmes does manage to synthesize his themes. In a visit to a copper mine in northern Chile, Symmes relates what Che saw, how he reacted to it, and how little has changed since. A similar melding of topics occurs at the end, when he arrives in Bolivia, the scene of Che’s death. How little has changed is a recurring them of Chasing Che. Just as Che Guevera has been turned into a pop culture icon, (distant from, and at times at distinct odds with the revolutionary he was), so the notion of revolution has turned from the optimism of the pointless violence of Peru’s Shining Path, without changing any of the underlying social conditions. Chasing Che is an entertaining and informative book. But it reads almost as an outline of something greater. Most likely it will pique your curiosity for more in depth examinations of Che Guevera, the history of South America, and the global struggles against poverty which continue today. But it will not satisfy that curiosity.
G. Murray Thomas
THE CLONE AGE: Adventures in the New World of Reproductive Technology
Lori B. Andrews
Lori Andrews, attorney and bio-ethicist, passed her bar exam on June 25, 1978, which happens to have been the birth date of Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby. Her latest book, THE CLONE AGE, relates her experiences, both as an attorney and as a technical advisor, in the rapidly expanding field of reproductive technology.
As doctors and researchers scramble to come up with viable means in order to provide the childless with progeny, the old story continues to hold true: whenever human values are at stake, someone stands ready to make a profit, and the more emotionally loaded the circumstances, the higher the stakes.
THE CLONE AGE makes fascinating reading, even if one is not familiar with current developments in reproductive and genetic research. Lori Andrews is more than conversant with both. She has served as an advisor to the United States Congress, the World Health Organization, and to the Centers for Disease Control. She is currently a professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology.
Andrews delineates medicolegal problems in clear, uncluttered language. Her presentation is lively, compassionate and occasionally humorous, with anecdotes that range from the absurd to the grotesque. For example:
In England, a doctor preparing to transplant an ovary into an infertile woman was dissuaded from doing so by authorities who informed him that any resulting children would be considered illegitimate by the courts.
At a Midwestern hospital, the wives and parents of six comatose men applied to the resident andrologist (a male fertility specialist) to have the patients’ sperm extracted by electroejaculation.
A wealthy but childless couple who died in a plane crash were survived by several viable, albeit frozen, embryos. Would the embryos inherit the multimillion dollar estate, or would the estate inherit the embryos?
“There seems to be a world of difference between reproductive technologies, (in vitro fertilization, egg donation, sperm donation, or surrogate motherhood), which allow couples to make up for a missing ingredient in the normal reproductive process, and the technologies now being proposed to let dead men beget children, to reanimate dead fetuses, and to create children with only one genetic parent,” maintains Andrews. Her main objection to cloning is that “…it replicates everything troubling about reproductive technologies: excessive commercialization, reckless experimentation on women, procedures undertaken without consent, unmonitored physical and psychological risks.”
To the National Institutes of Health, cloning is the next big gamble. But to Andrews, traditional reproduction has come to represent the continued progression of human development, while cloning, with its myriad ethical and genetic hazards, has become a metaphor for our subconscious desire to keep things as they are…to maintain a status not necessarily quo.