Friday, December 19, 2008

American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

I'm at a bit of a loss to explain my reaction to this book.

Perhaps, it's due in part to reading it immediately after the rather weak 109 East Palace.

Perhaps, it's due simply to how well done it is.

All I know is that I recommend it. Highly.

American Prometheus is a 784 page paperback book that despite its length is never dense. In crafting their biography, the authors wisely made the decision not to get weighed down with the science that played such a central role in the protagonist's life.

The reader is treated to a clearheaded depiction of a compelling man, one which makes no bones about his flaws while at the same time celebrating his triumphs. The book delves into Oppenheimer's life from start to finish and provides the reader with a perceptive perspective on his motivations.

The section on the Gray Board hearings and the concomitant government abuses which culminated with Oppenheimer's loss of his security clearance is eerily reminiscent of the government misdeeds during the Watergate era (in the news recently due to the death of Mark Felt) and the more recent attack on civil liberties which we have suffered through under the current administration.

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