Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

Grateful Response to the Wall Street Journal’s Review of THE IMAGINATIONS OF UNREASONABLE MEN

Saturday, November 20, 2010


This weekend the Wall Street Journal devoted an entire page to malaria, the “Scourge of Humankind”, using my new book THE IMAGINATIONS OF UNREASONABLE MEN and Sonia Shaw’s THE FEVER as the reviewer’s bookends to capture the different points of view about how best to address this terrible disease. The reviewer was W.F. Bynum, professor emeritus of the history of medicine at University College London and his piece can be found at

Though Professor Bynum didn’t quite buy my point of view, or perhaps didn’t fully get it, that seems like a mere quibble. After five years researching and writing IMAGINATIONS in a way designed to reach a more popular audience, it was incredibly fulfilling to see it given the serious consideration one would hope for by a distinguished expert such as Professor Bynum, and to see it trigger greater discussion and awareness of the toll taken by malaria on some of the world’s poorest children.

The review did an especially good job of making the link between malaria and poverty. In the book I write about the challenges of solving problems that impact those so voiceless and marginalized that there are no markets for solving them. I’ve been concerned about the Catch-22 of the same being true regarding a book about such matters – would there be a market among readers who have little connection to such realities? Gratefully, the Wall Street Journal and Professor Bynum suggest that there may be.

The review states that given the history of efforts to fight malaria “it is optimistic to think the disease can easily be stamped out.” Certainly no one I’ve written about, especially malaria vaccine developer Steve Hoffman, would disagree with that. THE IMAGINATIONS OF UNREASONABLE MEN is more about hope than optimism, hope in the sense that Vaclav Havel meant when he said “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” That’s what drives those featured in my book.