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Books and the bomb

February 11, 2007|Susan Salter Reynolds

Get out your slide rules: There must be some formula to predict the number of years before traumatic historical events become the stuff of fiction. The last decade has witnessed an increasing number of novels featuring Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project and the events at Los Alamos.

Some of our favorites include Marianne Wiggins' "Evidence of Things Unseen," Lydia Millet's "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart," Jean-Claude-Carriere's "Please, Mr. Einstein," Joseph Kanon's "Los Alamos," and Alan Lightman's "Einstein's Dreams." Like Nora Gallagher, these authors are fascinated by the moral and ethical struggles of nuclear scientists to come to terms with the ramifications of their work.

For a nonfiction account of life in the creepy community of Los Alamos, take a look at "Inventing Los Alamos: The Growth of an Atomic Community" by Jon Hunner. Few subjects test credulity and stretch the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction like the saga of the bomb and its development. It's a story that has at its center the elusive interplay between creativity and destruction -- both of which, it turns out, are equally fundamental to the human mind.

-- Susan Salter Reynolds

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