Chomsky still alive, but not taking calls

By Mark Shanahan
Globe Staff / September 22, 2006
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No one is more bewildered and, frankly, bummed by all of the attention suddenly being paid to Noam Chomsky than Andrew Bacevich.

"I've written a few books critical of US foreign policy, too," said Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. "Why couldn't Hugo Chavez hold up one of my books?" Why, indeed. Thanks to the Venezuelan president's surprise endorsement of "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance” during a vitriolic address at the United Nations, the paperback edition of Chomsky's 2003 book has catapulted to No.1 on's list of best-sellers, ahead of such eternally popular authors as John Grisham and Lemony Snicket. Suddenly, the left-wing linguist who taught for years at MIT is a celebrity.

"All the media hoopla -- I don't know what else to call it -- is not entirely pleasant," said Chomsky's wife, Carol, who picked up the phone at the couple's Lexington home after just one ring today. "Noam is flooded, absolutely flooded." The problem, she said, and the likely reason her husband of 56 years would not return our call, is the nature of the questions Chomsky is being asked. They're not serious enough, she said.

"Everyone wants to know what his reaction is," Carol Chomsky said. "And that's on the level of gossip and of no consequence at all."

Speaking to The New York Times yesterday, Noam Chomsky told the paper "I continue to work and write," correcting Chavez, who mistakenly said while speaking at the UN that Chomsky was dead.

The retired professor also added he was "quite interested" in Hugo Chavez's policies.

"Personally, I think many of them are quite constructive," Chomsky said. "I would be happy to meet with him."