Childhood memories with a nightmarish tinge.


An Appalachian memoir suffused with atomic energy.

Early on in this brief narrative, Freeman (Sociology/Simon Fraser Univ.; Longing for the Bomb: Oak Ridge and Atomic Nostalgia, 2015) writes, “I want to revive a peculiar genre—sociological poetry,” a term she attributes to C. Wright Mills in describing James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. This book is substantively different than Agee’s, though it has plenty of photos (Agee collaborated with the famed photographer Walker Evans), drawings, and assorted cultural references. It is more like a tone poem, a slim volume filled with very short sections—vignettes, memories—that seem to follow no chronological pattern yet keep circling back to the fact that in her grandparents’ hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, nuclear power was ubiquitous, like oxygen, so you barely noticed it. It was only in retrospect that the author realized the deadly connection between this “secret city engineered by the United States government,” with the deceivingly pastoral name, and the atomic destruction of Hiroshima. “For those of us in its orbit,” she writes, “its spinning is our spinning; its hard acorn body, always already full of future potential, is also our collective body, as we embody culture and place.” Within the book’s analytical orbit, Walter Benjamin and Icarus connect with R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” and Adam Bomb from the Garbage Pail Kids finds something of a kindred spirit in the comic-book superhero Captain Atom. Readers also learn that the co-founder of Waffle House “worked as a counterintelligence agent for the U.S. government during the Manhattan Project,” and the author’s own grandfather was an atomic courier, driving his truck full of secret cargo. The result is by no means an anti-nuclear polemic, but the cumulative impact of the matter-of-fact sections gives readers a Cold War chill at the cultural pervasiveness of such destructive energy.

Childhood memories with a nightmarish tinge.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5036-0689-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Redwood Press/Stanford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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