20 July 2010

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimerby Kai Bird

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writing itself is a bit clunky throughout this book-- the word "exquisite" is used at least 3 times between pages 11-12.

But the story is, of course, amazing. Oppenheimer held genius, for poetry, for physics, for sheer nerdiness of the highest order, and a more appropriate icon for American intellectualism, with all its power and ambiguity, could not be imagined. And a more instructive tale about American ideals, and its destructive power against its better values, could not be written.

It is a detailed, thorough, well-researched book. Possibly too detailed and well-researched. Which is to say, I wouldn't call it a 'fascinating' read, because I often got whirled into details about Richard Dawkin's wife and other things that didn't seem to move the plot, or set the stage, or work on a larger metaphor, or convey anything other than the fact that the authors clearly did a lot of research not only on Oppenheimer, but on everyone around him, too.

But as I read the last chapters, of Oppie's losing battle with the FBI and then with cancer, I think about the "security concerns" that even today prevent intellectuals from entering this country, and I worried for the waste we have made of his story.

View all my reviews >>

No comments:

Post a Comment