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Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber Hardcover – September 17, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 159 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (September 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684839121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684839127
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,270,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1993, Yale computer science professor David Gelernter opened what he thought was an unsolicited doctoral dissertation. It exploded, destroying his right hand and eye and making his torso resemble a construction site. Gelernter, bleeding and "royally annoyed," walked to the local hospital, keeping his feet trudging along in time with "an old Zionist marching song with a good strong beat." When he got there, his blood pressure measured zero and surgeons barely saved his life. "Music is useful," Gelernter observes.

While doctors rebuilt Gelernter, he published three books. In this one, Gelernter talks about getting blown up and sewn up and vehemently argues that society is losing its lifeblood--its belief in moral authority. He blames this on the takeover of the national mindset by the liberal intellectual elite, whose anything-goes ethic has silenced the drumbeat of tradition that used to keep us all in line. Though he doesn't directly blame the intellectual liberals for the Unabomber's actions, he does locate the madman on a continuum of modern social degradation. Drawing Life is an impassioned, not tightly reasoned argument and will make few converts to Gelernter's brand of conservatism. It's interesting as all get out though, with lots of clever lines and quirky insights. It's a good thing the Unabomber didn't silence Gelernter--a stubborn mind is a terrible thing to waste.

From 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.
-?Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 1997
Format: Hardcover
For one of his last targets, the Unabomber selected David Gelernter, a computer science instructor at Yale. Wouldn't you know, Gelernter writes, that this anti-technology terrorist picked one of the few computer science people who doesn't even like computers?
But Gelernter dismisses the Unabomber as a worthless fool undeserving of serious attention, except to put him to death for his murders. Instead, Drawing Life uses the attack on the author as a starting point for a critique of our nation's culture of "victimology," of undue tolerance, of liberals, and of intellectuals.

Full of sharp opinions, Drawing Life is bound to anger many who would prefer simply to sympathize with Gelernter for his injuries. The book is full of digressions, returning to Gelernter's personal situation from time to time as though only to renew his energy for another attack on the intelligentsia. But the writing is superior, and the arguments are cogent. If it does nothing else, Drawing Life should provoke worthwhile discussions on the direction in which our society is headed.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By smarmer on November 13, 1997
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding example of inspiration without the saccharine that afflicts most inspiring books today. Professor Gelernter survived the nearly fatal attack by the unabomber through gallantry, the ability to find something to be grateful for even in the midst of tragedy, and the support of his family, his friends, and his faith. He has shed nearly all of his bitterness, and his story is a text for recovery from tragedy. It is more than that, though. It is also in the tradition of authors like George Steiner, seeking to diagnose the ills of a society in which, using Gelernter's own words, the twentieth century has become itself a crime scene. Gelernter writes sparsely and bluntly about the transformation which has taken place in America since the 1960's. Traditions and restraints have been broken, and putting things back together will take a long time and a lot of perseverence. We have spent our grandparents' moral capital and have surrendered traditional values to the new intelligensia. Whether you accept all of Gelernter's social criticism or not, you must read the book for the stirring recitation of recovery which rejected victimization in favor of redemption. The tale of a gallant and noble soul.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Golden mountain guy on October 1, 1997
Format: Hardcover
As a psychiarist I am most interested in how injured souls assign meaning to personal tragedy. Gelernter, in this highly personal book, is able to metabolize his injury and set out on a crusade to heal a culture which "understands the validity" of the unibomber. His own healing is through healing others. This is the right stuff. In Freud's day being "outspoken" was a virtue. Gelernter is outspoken, provocative and an iconoclast- given the icon is celebrating tolerance. I was thoughtfully provoked and recommend Drawing Life to all who are concerned about our cultural life.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Cobalt999@aol.com on November 26, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Gelernter, an associate professor of Computer Science at Yale who has little use for computers, wades into the current "politically correct" acedemic world with guns blazing and a "take no prisoners" attitude that is all too often lacking from those on the political right, who seem too intent on appearing moderate and in the process lose all sense of outrage, said outrage being Gelernter's primary stock in trade. Along the way, the author delves into religion, music and art with a seriousness and grace that are all too often lacking in political discourse. This is a thin, tightly written book which could and should be discussed for years. BRAVO!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 1997
Format: Hardcover
One of the most powerfully written and elegantly thought out books I have ever read. Should be mandatory reading for every American. I used to think only Vietnam veterans had this kind of sane view of the world after adversity. I was wrong. Buy it, read it, pass it along.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dan on February 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While interwoven with the story of his comeback from a horrific explosion by a "hutman" (author's word) whose ideas will not work, he explains the rise of an "intellectual class" into positions of power in our society and the effect of this rise on the American people by this same class whose ideas also will not work. The author has fascinating undeniably true insights into the reactions of various segments of our society (the media for instance) and how these twisted and passive views came about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By joe on June 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Gelernter deserves praise for this book. Amidst the struggles of recuperating from a life threatening catastrophe, he waxes eloquent about a country he loves and does it in a way that makes us love America too... and wish for it to live on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alice Roddy on July 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Wanting some understanding of the shootings and attempted bombings in Aurora, CO, I turned to this book and was well rewarded. Gelernter writes on two levels.

First is his own experience as the subject (note that I don't say victim because he doesn't) of irrational evil. He unhesitatingly delineates his pain and bitterness. A thoughtful, intelligent man of many interests and great love for his family, he shows us how the explosion ripped apart his life. He was in grave danger of being alive but unable to live in the sense of being able to do the things most meaningful to him.

The second level flows into excursions of thought, some trivial and some both broad and deep in focus, about the nature of journalism, of art and poetry, and of the American experience. In a way that parallels his own struggle, he sees the America as wounded and in danger of losing its ability to do what it does best. He has resumed his life and hopes against hope for the same for his country.
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