LOOKING FOR AMERICA: 4 Writer's Odyssey by Richard Rhodes

LOOKING FOR AMERICA: 4 Writer's Odyssey

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Rhodes writes with a heavy hand in all 19 of these essays, most first published in Playboy, Audience, or Harper's during the Seventies. He renders a plain sentence somehow abstruse: J. Robert Oppenheimer (subject of one of the nicer pieces) ""was a frail child, frequently ill, extending to sensitivity in the reservation of adults."" He asserts his intellect aggressively, knocking down a house of cards with the weight of the world in an otherwise light but informing look at Hallmark's HQ. in Kansas City (Rhodes' homeground): ""The Communist nations. . . turn to party meetings and rallies to stay in touch; with a more ritualized social structure, we send cards."" He dilutes his own points by manipulating words--""the Nixon Court has rigged new stendards"" to suppress pornography, this on the Memphis trial of the Deep Throut contingent--and misreading trends: second-generation Californians, whose ""rapacious"" parents Rhodes holds in contempt, choose the helping professions instead of the money-making ones to ""expiate the guilt of acquisition with good works."" After rehearsing the Kennedy tragedies to express compassion for Edward's plight as he sees it, Rhodes descends to a surprisingly venomous attack on then-President Ford; it can only be described as sarcastic psychobiography by a man with an ax to grind, and sadly, it's the only piece here with fire.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday