THE MELTDOWN by William Keisling


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A fictionalized account--leaden and predictable--of an accident and possible meltdown at a nuclear plant (the author covered the Three Mile Island disaster for The Progressive and Rolling Stone). Tom Parker, a young reporter, goes to work for a small free-spirited magazine staffed by a predictable group of characters: a woman who sleeps in turn with each new editor; a writer-in-residence, Jack Falstaff, who lives above the office; and so forth. And nothing Keisling writes rescues the situation from predictability: instead, we're taken through a group of anecdotes about reporters and old buddies (road stories, mostly) until Parker moves into a house and rents a room to Sterling North, a ""feminist"" who is so beautiful that men have driven her into solitude. Parker: ""I think I'm in love."" His friend: ""Then you must do what you must to get her."" What he does is become editor of the magazine and allow the beautiful woman to write unedited reviews from a feminist perspective, whereupon Jack Falstaff comments: ""You've been pussywhipped."" When the nuclear accident breaks as a story, Parker covers it (""It had been an interesting way to spend an afternoon"") while radiation rumors get crazier, the government orders all pregnant women evacuated, and CBS reporters take to wearing lead suits. Finally, Hollywood arrives in the person of a famous scriptwriter, and Parker gets shuffled from the real story by the representatives of megabucks. He fails to win Sterling (the nuclear-accident story, he thought, might convince her he was for real), and Parker is left ""thinking about the days of my youth when I'd run so carefree through the woods."" There isn't much here for anyone: the material is more a journalist's memoir about working for a small investigative periodical than the story behind the headlines.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1990
Publisher: Yardbird (P.O. Box 10214, State College, PA 16805)