David Samuels in Tablet:
How do you know Noam Chomsky?
That’s an interesting story, which tells you something about Professor Chomsky as a person. I don’t like to put him on a pedestal, because, you know, I’ve known him for more than a quarter of a century, and I was very close with his wife, closer than with Professor Chomsky. Because Professor Chomsky is in the cerebral world, and [his wife, the linguist] Carol [Schatz], who is brilliant, was also down to earth. We could talk bullshit. I went shopping with her, we would talk about prices in the supermarket, and she took out her coupons at the cash register.
Chomsky has his flaws, but the virtues are staggering. It’s not just that he made these linguistic discoveries; it’s the thousands of graduate students that he trained. He createdphysically a field. And you know, I travel a lot, I tell you every time everywhere I go, at least two people will say, “I read a book by Chomsky, and it changed my life.” But he has his flaws, like everybody else.
What are Chomsky’s biggest flaws?
I’m never going to say. Because Chomsky’s biggest virtue, you know what it is? Aside from his staggering intellect and absolute faithfulness, Professor Chomsky never betrayed a friend. He will defend them even though inside he knows that they’re completely wrong.