THIS MAN'S PILL: Reflections on the 50th Birthday of the Pill

Carl Djerassi, Author . Oxford Univ. $25 (276p) ISBN 978-0-19-850872-4

"Until 1969, I would have described myself as a 'hard' scientist, the proudly macho adjective employed by chemists and other physical scientists to distinguish their work from the 'soft,' fuzzy fields such as sociology or even psychology," writes Djerassi, whose historic synthesis of a steroid contraceptive in 1951 revolutionized human reproduction. In this learned memoir, he describes the turning point as the publication of his first public policy article in Science magazine, an event that he says marked the beginning of a life change attributable ultimately to the pill. The first part of this memoir is a well-reasoned apologetic on the pill's origins and its benefits to women, where Djerassi follows familiar debunkings: of fundamentalists, on the one hand, who regarded the pill as "a symbol, if not an agent, of what they perceived as a pervasive moral decline," and of feminists, on the other, who he says viewed the manmade contraceptive as the supreme gesture of patriarchy. The balance of this book, however, explores how the pill altered the rules of the author's own life, raising his awareness of "the social consequences arising from scientific and technological developments" and leading him down unexpected creative avenues; Djerassi, now in his late 70s and an emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford, has since become a prolific playwright and author of five novels and a book of poetry. His meditations on "science-in-theater" and other aspects of the writing life (along with frequent quotations from Djerassi's favorite authors) are sprinkled through the book, giving this winning, disorganized set of reflections depth and heart. (Oct. 15)

Forecast:While few readers are likely to share Djerassi's precise combination of interests, this book should draw the attention of the parents of boomers, and the countercultural boomers themselves—and it could break out on reproductive interest alone. Djerassi's play, An Immaculate Misconception, dealing with current fertility issues, opens in New York this fall.

Reviewed on: 07/16/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 235 pages - 978-968-16-6414-5
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-19-860695-6
Open Ebook - 322 pages - 978-0-19-159301-7
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