"The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country."
-J. Robert Oppenheimer
I bought a book from a secondhand store to pass the time on my flights to and from Japan. It is enormous, nonfiction, and I expected it to be mostly boring but maybe peppered with interesting facts.
I was very wrong. This book is stunning. Its scope is marvelously large, yet it manages to both explain complex scientific language lucidly and humanize the huge cast of characters all navigating very murky ethical waters as best they can. It is lyrical, philosophical, thrilling, meticulously researched and sometimes just plain terrifying. But it rises above morbid curiosity to ask and offer eloquent answers to the new existential questions that face our institutions and our species. I was reminded repeatedly of The Lord Of The Rings, for its scope and detail (and, to be honest, I liked this book better. But that's just me).
It's called The Making Of The Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. It won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and the National Book Award. It's one of my favourite books ever and I really, really recommend you read it.
Here is an in-depth review of the book from the New York Times.
It was a tragic day when the long-running, award-winning, and beloved Toronto lit journal Descant closed it's office door for good. But this is the era of the internet, and great ideas can't stay dead anymore.
So it's a wonderful surprise to browse the pages of this new, growing website that resurrects the spirit of the magazine and promises to feature highlights and excerpts from the library and new blog pieces. No new submissions, please!
Check it out!
No defiance is quite as funny as one that doesn't break any rules at all.
John Koenig continues his series The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows with a real awful one.
“The bills [we used] looked pretty god awful…we had 28 factors that were different -- they said “In Dog We Trust,” for instance -- but the Secret Service is very clear on their definition of counterfeiting. Honestly, if you followed their instructions, you may as well use Monopoly money. Feature films demand a certain bar of quality, so everyone is asked to break law in a sense by making prop money.”
There's a fatalistic joy to looking through old pictures, especially those we have some connection to. It's an encounter with our mortality. The mundane made sacred by perspective.
"So there I was in our C.F.O.’s office with a P. & L. that just eked out a 7 percent return. He looked at that piece of paper dubiously. He looked at me dubiously. I made some weak noises about literary excellence, backlist sales, commitment to authors. He continued to look at me dubiously. Then, with that wry and sad expression with which financial people have regarded liberal arts people since at least the invention of movable type and perhaps even written language, he signed off on my shortfallen P. & L. and said to me, 'You know, we could make more money by just putting this advance into a certificate of deposit.'"
Recent studies have indicated that three servings of Jack Hostrawser per day may help to prevent sudden comas.