In 1995, Robert Barsky met with Noam Chomsky to discuss hiswork-in-progress, Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent (MIT Press, 1997). Chomsky told Barsky that he shouldfocus his attention instead on midcentury linguist and activist Zellig Harris,who was, Chomsky modestly insisted, more interesting than Chomsky himself. Intrigued, Barsky began to research Harris (1909–1992) and discovered thestory of a major figure in American intellectual life "sitting in a corner in the middle of the room"—part of crucial twentieth-century conversations about language, technology, labor,politics, and Zionism.
This biography describes the intellectual and political milieus that helped shape Noam Chomsky, a pivotal figure in contemporary linguistics, politics, cognitive psychology, and philosophy. It also presents an engaging political history of the last several decades, including such events as the Spanish Civil War, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the march on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War.