Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Nuclear Age

Today is 11 May 2006.

HH rates The Nuclear Age(1985) by Tim O'Brien as one of the top ten Cold War/Nuclear Age novels. (Also great are Going After Cacciato and If I Die in a Combat Zone, both about the Vietnam War.)

Following is the conclusion of the novel:

"One day it will happen.

One day we will see flashes, all of us.

One day my daughter will die. One day, I know, my wife will leave me. It will be autumn, perhaps, and the trees will be in color, and she will kiss me in my sleep and tuck a poem in my pocket, and the world will surely end.

I know this, but I believe otherwise.

Because there is also this day, which will be hot and bright. We will spend the afternoon in bed. I'll install the air-conditioner and we'll undress and lie on the cotton sheets and talk quietly and feel the coolness. The day will pass. And when night comes I will sleep the dense narcotic sleep of my species. I will dream dreams that suppose awakening. I will trust the seasons. I will keep my wife in my arms for as long as she will stay. I will obey my vows. I will stop smoking. I will have hobbies. I will firm up my golf game and invest wisely and adhere to the conventions of decency and good grace. I will find forgetfulness. Happily, without hesitation, I will take my place in the procession from church to grave, believing what cannot be believed, that all things are renewable, that the human spirit is undefeated and infinite, always. I will be a patient husband. I will endure. I will live my life in the conviction that when it finally happens -- when we hear that midnight whine, when Kansas burns, when what is done is undone, when fail-safe fails, when deterrence no longer deters, when the jig is at last up -- yes, even then I will hold to a steadfast orthodoxy, confident to the end that E will somehow not quite equal mc squared, that it's a cunning metaphor, that the terminal equation will somehow not quite balance."


Anonymous Señor Dahl-I said...

HH, I generally agree with your tastes, but not in this case.

I read "The Nuclear Age" in the early 90s. I never once believed in the authenticity of the world of the self-indulgent protagonist.

Doesn't his self-aggrandizing author's mouthpiece character improbably prove to be a chick magnet (not magnate), too? That was really hard to stomach.

Sorry, HH, we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous I Don't Like Waffles said...

HH -

I think you need to read some happier stuff. Novels about nuclear war don't sound like a nice summer read, nor a nice read for any season. Based on your postings, I gather that you may gravitate to that subject matter, but you might try reading some lighter fare, too.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Señor Dahl-I said...

I think nuclear war novels ("on The Beach", "Fail Safe", "Red Alert") can be great summer reads. Takes your mind off all the sunshine and fresh air.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Señor Dahl-I said...

From "The Demolished Man" by Alfred Bester:

Upper-grade Esper and Police Prefect Lincoln Powell to 22nd Centur upper-class party people:

"...All I want is your permission. I won't have to peep. Because, you see, if all the innocent suspects grant permission, then the one who refuses must be the guilty. He alone will be forced to protect himself from peeping."

But Maria's guests had bastardy in their souls...perjury...adultery---the Devil. And the shame in them rose up in terror.

"No!" Maria cried. They all shot to their feet and shouted "No! No! No!"


And this is the best hope for our country, that Congress will react the same way.

6:21 PM  

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