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Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber

Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber

by David Gelernter

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In June 1993, Yale computer scientist Gelernter (Mirror Worlds) wasin his own words"blown up" by a letter from the Unabomber. In turn, his hitherto quiet life was then blown up by the media. With poetic justice, in this tart report Gelernter uses his newfound fame to leverage his views on several matters, including the intrusive media. So while this book is a memoir, quite moving, about what it's like to suffer pain, indignity and loss, and to try to "put things back together," it's also a critique, quite bristly, of a national state of affairs that, Gelernter contends, helped to create the media feeding frenzy and other ills. In a different and better America, he writes, "The new institutions...would spare us any pathetic, patronizing assertions that the basis of American government and society is other than white, European and Christian." These assertions abound, Gelernter argues, because sometime in the 1960s, "intellectuals took over the elite" and, in a moral "revolution," made tolerance "the only unquestioned good." Many readers will disagree vigorously with these views, but hopefully they won't lose sight, amidst the preaching, of Gelernter's more supple and subtle account of coming to terms with his post-bomb existence: of rejecting the label of "victim"; of finding, amidst his fevered life, "the mother lode of cool" in Beethoven's string quartets; of learning how to write with his left hand. Gelernter steps on toes in this courageous, prickly book, but he walks tall as he does. First serial to Time magazine. (Sept.) FYI: In early 1998, Basic Books will publish Gelernter's Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Computing.
Library Journal
In June 1993, a mail bomb sent by the Unabomber critically injured Yale computer science professor Gelernter (his right hand and eye were permanently damaged). Ostensibly an account of the author's physical and emotional recovery, this book is actually an extended diatribe against the media, the ruling intellectual elite, feminism, and all the other liberal elements that have ruined society. For Gelernter sees the Unabomber's actions as a metaphor for what is wrong with this country. "The blast that injured me was a reenactment of a far bigger one a generation earlier, which destroyed something basic in this society that has yet to be repaired." Unfortunately, any sympathy for Gelernter is quickly dissipated by his heavy-handed and repetitious theorizing. Liberals (if there are any left) will fling this book across the room, while conservatives will simply be bored by the tedious prose. [See also Gelernter's Machine Beauty, reviewed on p. 208.Ed.]Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
Yale computer scientist Gelernter (1939: The Lost World of the Fair, 1995, etc.) offers a peculiar rant only tangentially about his ordeal as a Unabomber target and the resulting irreparable damage to his right hand and eye.

Despite his claim that the bomb that almost killed him, and its aftermath, "forced me to rething everything I knew about American society," it would be difficult to identify an opinion in the book that Gelernter doesn't appear to have held undisturbed for decades, except for his discovery that most reporters are amoral swine. The account of his recovery and newfound celebrity status fills out a thin and entirely unoriginal tract on the "takeover" of the American "elite" by "intellectuals" in the 1960s and the consequent moral degradation of American society that he sees, or reads about, all around him. He doesn't bother to explain who these intellectual masterminds really are (aside from Norman Mailer and Betty Friedan) or what the perverse theories are by which they rule, except for an excessive reverence for "tolerance." Gelernter skips to his main complaint: The "most disastrous consequence" of this "Civil Rights Religion" is feminism. Tossing off generalizations that disintegrate upon examination ("A lesbian activist gets more respect nowadays than a homemaker"), Gelernter argues that many more women now work because female intellectuals are antagonistic to childrearing and have created a climate in which women are ideologically impelled to get out of the home. This screed is padded with a messy assembly of self-satisfied musings on Gelernter's own artistic sensitivity as poet, painter, and lover of music (punctuated by goofy self-deprecatring asides that define his particular style of false modesty) and, unsurprisingly, on a yearning for a relentlessly idealized 1930s America.

Full of solipsism, smugness, and petty arrogance—an exercise in self-regard.

Product Details

Free Press
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Product dimensions:
5.77(w) x 8.74(h) x 0.72(d)

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