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     Volume 5 Issue 95 | May 19, 2006 |

   Cover Story
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American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin
Knopf Publishing Group; April 2006

Six decades after the dropping of the atomic bomb, its relevance to our lives grows ever more clear. No person was more aware of the far-reaching implications of this new, destructive technology than Manhattan Project physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-67.) As early as 1946, this supposedly unworldly scientist noted that the breakthrough weaponry would ultimately make all our major cities vulnerable to nuclear terrorist attack. The only defense, he cautioned, was a screwdriver capable of opening "each and every crate or suitcase." In this authoritative, large-scale biography, Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin captured the complicated personality of this Atomic Age icon.

It Hit Me Like a Ton of Bricks: A Memoir of Mother and Daughter
Catherine Lloyd Burns
North Point Press; April 2006

Actress Burns, who has appeared on "E.R." and "Law and Order", has written a funny, touching mother and daughter memoir. Born in 1961 and nine when her father died, Burns felt she got no sympathy from her mother, who worried that her daughter would use people's pity to become manipulative. Besides, her mother said, "where is it written you have to be happy." As a teen, Burns suspected her mother was trying to get rid of her by shipping her off to live with her older step-siblings, sending her to boarding school-so she could have fun with her male friends. Surviving drugs, sex and suicidal behavior, Burns went to college, started an acting career, married, had a child, divorced and discovered her mother again. The full circle of the maternal bond is what makes this memoir satisfying; readers see the daughter who schemed to get the attention of the mother whom she believed was self-centreed become a mother herself and confront her own daughter's control ploys. When Burns tells her mom what readers have long suspected-that her mother is her best friend-her mother decides she herself is "finished being crazy" and they're both, finally, able to relax together.

A Writer's Life
Gay Talese
Knopf Publishing Group; April 2006

Talese was a reporter for the New York Times from 1956 to 1965 and has since worked as one of the country's preeminent journalists in so-called literary nonfiction. This is not his personal autobiography so much as a memoir about many of the stories he's covered in his 50-year career, demonstrating the numerous relationships forged between author and subject, whether the subject is a member of the Chinese women's soccer team (this story line frames the book), the issue of race in the Deep South, the personalities of Lorena and John Bobbit, or ordinary people from whose lives he crafted memorable work. Talese describes the relationships between himself and his subjects and how his writing threads between those territories. Given the cultural significance of many of Talese's works (e.g., his legendary profile of Frank Sinatra for Esquire) as examples of long-form nonfiction and of a particular kind of journalism, this memoir serves as an important addition to his writings.



Compiled by: Sanyat Sattar

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