The Nuclear Ageby Tim O'Brien
Going After Cacciato (winner of the National Book Award in 1979) was widely acclaimed as one of the most powerful and emotionally vivid novels about Vietnam. Now, writing with the same sharp, richly expressive language, the same edgy dark humor and complete honesty, and the same rawness of nerve and energy, Tim O’Brien gives us an equally powerful novel about growing up as a child of anxiety—the big anxiety, the one that’s been with us since the fifties, when we finally realized that Einstein’s theories translated into Russian.
It’s 1995 and William Cowling is digging a hole in his backyard. He is forty-nine, and after years and years of pent-up terror he has finally found the courage of a fighting man. And so a hole. A hold that he hopes will one day be large enough to swallow up his almost fifty years’ worth of fear. A hole that causes his twelve-year-old daughter to call him a “nutto,” and his wife to stop speaking to him. A hole that William will not stop digging and out of which rise scenes of his past to play themselves out in his memory.
The scenes take him back to his quietly peculiar adolescence (No. 2 pencils had a surprising significance), to his college days, down into the underground, and up through several stabs at “normal” adulthood . . . they take him from Montana to Florida, from Cuba to California, from Kansas to New York to Germany and back to Montana as he makes him way through an often mystifying—but just as often hilarious —labyrinth of fears and desires, obsessions and obligations, blessed madness and less-than-blessed sobriety . . . they take him into the lives of a shrink who’s a whiz a role reversal and of a dizzying eccentric cheerleader; of radical misfits and misfit radicals; of an ethereal stewardess (the traveling man’s dream); and two guerilla commandos who mix shtick and nightmare in their tactical brew. And each scene is a reminder of the unbargained-for-terror that has guided him to the bottom of his hole. For this digging is his final act of “prudence and sanity”—he’s taking control, getting there first, robbing his fears of their power to destroy . . . or so he believes. But is this act really sane? Is his daughter’s estimation of his emotional well-being (“pretty buggo, too”) the only truly sane statement being made? Is sanity even the issue? In the dazzling final scenes, William turns from the hole—from his past and from his future 0 to himself, digging deeper and deeper to find his answers.
The Nuclear Age is pyrotechnically funny and moving, courageous and irreverent. It takes on our supreme unacknowledged terror (whose reality we both refuse to accept and all too easily accommodate ourselves to), finds it lunatic core, and shapes it into a story that speaks of, and to, an entire age: our own, our nuclear age. It is an extraordinary novel.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 2 MB
Meet the Author
Minnesota native Tim O'Brien graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul in 1968. He served as a foot soldier in Vietnam from February 1969 to March 1970. Following his military service, he went to graduate school in Government at Harvard University, then later worked as a national affairs reporter for The Washington Post. O'Brien is the author of the novel Going After Cacciato, winner of the 1979 National Book Award for fiction, and of The Things They Carried, winner of the 1990 Chicago Tribune Heartland Award in fiction. Its title story, first published in Esquire, received the 1987 National Magazine Award in fiction.His other books are If I Die in a Combat Zone, Northern Lights, and The Nuclear Age.His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, Playboy, McCall's, Granta, Harper's, Redbook, The New Republic, Ploughshares, Gentleman's Quarterly, and Saturday Review. His short stories have been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories (1976, 1978, 1982), Great Esquire Fiction, Best American Short Stories (1978, 1987), The Pushcart Prize (Vols. II and X), and in many textbooks and collections. He has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Massachusetts Arts and Humanities Foundation.In the Lake of the Woods was selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of 1994.
- Date of Birth:
- October 1, 1946
- Place of Birth:
- Austin, Minnesota
- B.A., Macalester College, 1968; Graduate study at Harvard University
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
If you need help trying to figure out what the novel makes reference to then you shouldn't be reading it, anyone who's taken a history course would have no difficulty with the matter... It does tend to get a bit repetitive but since it's told from a first person narrative it's obvious that it's done intentionally and overall the writing style is easy to adjust to. Reading this book is a lot more meaningful when you consider the world around you. It should definitely bring out the thinker in all those who read it.
The book was not very well done and it was extremely repetitive. One needs a large amount of background info to know what is going on in the novel.