I’ve just finished Roth’s The Human Stain. It’s brilliantly written but I enjoyed it for more than the quality of the writing and the intricacies of the plot – terrific though these are. The novel – published in 2000 -is particularly pertinent in the run up to the US election.

I will quote just one short passage that paints a little of the history of a nation that might – just might – elect its first African American to be President (fingers crossed!).

 ‘You haven’t told me who Dr Charles Drew was.’

‘Dr Charles Drew,’ she told me,’ discovered how to prevent blood from clotting so it could be banked. Then he was injured in an automobile accident, and the hospital that was nearest would not take colored, and he died by bleeding to death’.

PS And here’s another under-represented group which wants victory for Obama!

PPS MASH, the US comedy series about surgeons in a mobile hospital during the Korean War, used the story about Dr Drew in one of the episodes in a storyline about a racist soldier who needed blood transfusions. Apparently it was an urban myth.

Drew did die following a car accident (he was driving, with a bunch of other doctors with him, one of whom was also black) – the others were thrown clear when their car somersaulted, but he was trapped, and died shortly afterwards in a nearby hospital. The surviving black doctor has refuted the myth, saying they were given all the care they could be by the hospital. If Dr Drew had been given a transfusion he would in fact 
have died even quicker because of the state of shock he was in.

Mind you, myths aren’t told and re-told unless they resonate with listeners; so, apocryphal the story may be, but nevertheless I expect it contains a truth.

Thanks to wikipedia for enabling a check on the veracity of this story.