Yale computer scientist Gelernter (1939: The Lost World of the Fair, 1995, etc.) offers a peculiar rant only tangentially...


DRAWING LIFE: Surviving the Unabomber

Yale computer scientist Gelernter (1939: The Lost World of the Fair, 1995, etc.) offers a peculiar rant only tangentially about his ordeal as a Unabomber target and the resulting irreparable damage to his right hand and eye. Despite his claim that the bomb that almost killed him, and its aftermath, ""forced me to rething everything I knew about American society,"" it would be difficult to identify an opinion in the book that Gelernter doesn't appear to have held undisturbed for decades, except for his discovery that most reporters are amoral swine. The account of his recovery and newfound celebrity status fills out a thin and entirely unoriginal tract on the ""takeover"" of the American ""elite"" by ""intellectuals"" in the 1960s and the consequent moral degradation of American society that he sees, or reads about, all around him. He doesn't bother to explain who these intellectual masterminds really are (aside from Norman Mailer and Betty Friedan) or what the perverse theories are by which they rule, except for an excessive reverence for ""tolerance."" Gelernter skips to his main complaint: The ""most disastrous consequence"" of this ""Civil Rights Religion"" is feminism. Tossing off generalizations that disintegrate upon examination (""A lesbian activist gets more respect nowadays than a homemaker""), Gelernter argues that many more women now work because female intellectuals are antagonistic to childrearing and have created a climate in which women are ideologically impelled to get out of the home. This screed is padded with a messy assembly of self-satisfied musings on Gelernter's own artistic sensitivity as poet, painter, and lover of music (punctuated by goofy self-deprecatring asides that define his particular style of false modesty) and, unsurprisingly, on a yearning for a relentlessly idealized 1930s America. Full of solipsism, smugness, and petty arrogance--an exercise in self-regard.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1997


Page Count: 160

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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