Up early even though I have nothing to do today other than a load of laundry. That’s pretty much been the way my Sundays have been ever since I came to Daejeon back in February. I still like getting up early, having my coffee and having the whole day in front of me. If the gym were open on Sundays that’s where I would be; instead it’s just hanging out in my apartment.
As for the book I have been engrossed with of late, I’ve been really getting into Lydia Millet’s Oh Pure and Radiant Heart. It’s a masterfully crafted literary and philosophical tour-de-force that moves from the poetic to the hilarious to the dreamily apocalyptic which plucks the three scientists who were integral to the invention of the atom bomb—Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and Enrico Fermi as they watch history’s first mushroom cloud rise over the desert on July 16th, 1945—and places them down in modern-day Santa Fe. One by one, the scientists are spotted by a shy librarian who becomes convinced of their authenticity. Entranced, bewildered, and overwhelmed by their significance as historical markers on the one hand, and their peculiar personalities on the other, she, to the dismay of her husband, devotes herself to them. Soon the scientists acquire a sugar daddy—a young pothead millionaire from Tokyo—who bankrolls them. Heroes to some, lunatics or con artists to others, the scientists finally become messianic religious figureheads to fanatics, who believe Oppenheimer is the Second Coming. As the ever-growing convoy traverses the country in a fleet of RV’s on a pilgrimage to the UN, the scientists wrestle with the legacy of their invention and their growing celebrity, while Ann and her husband struggle with the strain on their marriage, a personal journey married to a history of thermonuclear weapons.
Millet’s style of writing reminds me a lot of Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller with a bit of Thomas Pynchon thrown in for good measure. It’s really neat how she has these scientists trying to interact with modern society while at the same time striking a more serious philosophical chord about nuclear weapons and government paranoia.