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Oh Pure and Radiant Heart Hardcover – June, 2005
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
I *loved* the book for the first 150 pages. I could not believe how much I loved the writing, and how connected I felt to the characters. It is really magical how Millet is able to make the surreal situation so very real. I really dreaded the moment when the book would end.
Be careful what you wish for, right? The second half of the book is unfortunately nowhere near as compelling as the first. It had a little bit the feel of a book where the author had painted herself into the corner. It felt as though Millet did not really know where to go with the wonderful premise that she had imagined. I may be wrong about that, but I can at least say that as a reader it was very difficult to hold on to the thread. I cannot help but wonder if a little bit more help from an editor would have prevented the problem.
In any case, Millet is hugely impressive as a writer. I certainly will not be giving up on her work. Recommended (with my caveats above) for fans of smart speculative fiction. If you like a lyrical tone to your prose, Millet should appeal to your taste.
Shaken, Ann goes to a friend's restaurant for a drink. Next to her at the bar is a man reading a biography of Oppenheimer who looks just like the Oppenheimer in her dream. He is joined by an elfin man speaking Italian. They talk about what will happen to them in the future. The Italian, now speaking accented English, will die in 1954. The tall, skinny Oppenheimer-type, will live until 1967, and they will both die of cancer. They joke about this uneasily, and then leave.
They are not alone. In author Lydia Millet's vision, both Oppenheimer and the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi disappeared from the Trinity nuclear testing site at the moment the test bomb went off, and reappeared in Santa Fe on March 1, 2003. In Chicago, a fat rude dynamo named Leo Szilard awakes under a table in the undergrad dining room at the University of Chicago at the same moment. Szilard and his buddy Albert Einstein had written a letter to President Roosevelt in 1939 warning him about German research into an atomic weapon, thus starting the race for the bomb. Szilard, as brilliant as he is exasperating, puts two and two together faster than the other physicists and hops a bus for New Mexico; the train is too expensive for his 1945 dollars.Read more ›
by Lydia Millet
Interspersed with Ben & Ann's personal story is Ann's contemporary 21st Century caregiving to 3 mysteriously arrived 1945 nuclear scientists are powerful factoid clips regarding the horror et al of the use of nuclear weapons & the after effects of tests at Bikini, in Nevada, at Almagordo. These are powerful & ugly reminders of what we have done as a country.
But it is a rather discontinuous sort of book, one of the sort that one has frequently to turn back a page to make sure one has not been passed over unintentionally. The narrative is often like log book entries. Or like card file notes that haven't been integrated into a cogent theme. Stream of consciousness-like & very bumpy.
Textual breaks are helpfully marked with a wingding; quotations marks are nowhere, with the em dash indicating the beginning of a speaker's words. Not bad ideas for this piecemeal style. As these cuts are shown perhaps Millet was hoping for a movie. It would make a good one, with the usual Hollywood alterations. It has fantasy & a cast of characters that includes Oppenheimer, Szilard & Fermi, as well as assorted Jesus freaks, rich former hippies, junkies, feds & government spooks, it suits the screen (but would not please anyone wearing "establishment" colors).
The powerful & bitter medicinal truth about the atomic weapons & related industries needs to be taken, but the honey is missing from this very long (532 pp), many mouthsful of a book. Yet the persistent reader will be relieved at the end, which rises to something like a consistent & nicely written philosophy, even though not one that seems to value mundane life or secular meaning, but rather seems to offer an existentialist anomie.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
reads like a deconstructed (or notes & drafts toward a) Pynchon novel, but w/ its occasional Pynchonian irreverence undercut by a generally earnest tone, a key if superficially... Read morePublished 14 months ago by skinnyblackcladdink
I did receive a hard copy of the book but it has the name of a library stamped on the edge of the pages. I did not appreciate receiving a stolen book.Published 15 months ago by Wendy Lou
The science regarding the atomic topic of this novel was, of course, mentioned; but the story was more about the relationships between characters: exactly the kind of book I love! Read morePublished on July 24, 2013 by AEW
I was hooked on the first page when I read words that to this day resonate and remind me of how profound reading can be. Read morePublished on May 21, 2013 by Amazon Customer
This should not be the first Millet book you read. Read something shorter first, and if you really enjoy her writing, try this. Read morePublished on March 24, 2013 by Willy Weasel
I didn't even finish this. And before you discount my review entirely, it's worth acknowledging that I was more than halfway through it at the time I gave up. Read morePublished on April 19, 2012 by E. Doyon
........... and i'm bored. too many characters with nothing interesting to say. i'd rather actually read about oppenhimer from a factual point of view instead of this rubbish. Read morePublished on January 26, 2012 by i prefered his earlier stuff
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart
I first discovered Lydia Millet with My Happy Life, as I was wandering aimlessly through the library waiting for my husband to be finished with... Read more
I had read a two sentance recommendation of this book some time ago, and as such, it had landed on my reading list. I'm glad it did. Read morePublished on August 14, 2008 by Amazon Customer