MUSHROOM: The Story of the A-Bomb Kid by John Aristotle & David Michaelis Phillips

MUSHROOM: The Story of the A-Bomb Kid

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Call me a Personality."" Me is John Phillips, who designed an atomic bomb as a physics project at Princeton (""to prove a point, not to make a buck"") and was whoopeed by the media. Here, dispelling his own ambivalence about ""cashing in on a serious issue like nuclear proliferation,"" J.P. is frankly whoopeeing himself. How he comes by the savvy to rise to every occasion in whoopeedom is never addressed--not to mention how he has the chutzpah to bluff DuPont into identifying the necessary explosives for his bomb, and bluff Hollywood into starring him in the forthcoming film. This is circumscribed autobiography, beginning Madly with J.P.'s introduction to Ivy (""God Went to Princeton"") and his discovery of the best friend who became his co-author and sometime superego; in part it's a farewell paean to the adventure of building that friendship. . . before and after the idea of the bomb bursts on J.P. during a Disarmament seminar. He explains its principles neatly enough but shares so little of the inspiration surrounding its design that the achievement is hard to appreciate: his adviser praises his detective work in unearthing once-classified Los Alamos documents, yet J.P., on his own, hits the very jackpot for which the Rosenbergs were executed--which is presumably why he's pursued by the Pakistanis and protected by the FBI. Spoiled in ways he doesn't at 22 recognize, disingenuous under a veil of glib nonchalance, J.P. is a font of irresistible one-liners, between which he comes across as at once more and less likable than he may be. There's a lot wrong with him and his book: after all, ""I don't like to be pushed!"" But he's right about being Good Copy. Very.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1978
Publisher: Morrow