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The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0195161076
ISBN-10: 0195161076
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

How do Americans, long innocent of such things, comprehend large-scale acts of domestic terrorism? How do they commemorate the victims of such deeds? In this unfortunately timely book, historian Edward T. Linenthal examines these questions as they were addressed by the people of Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

In that attack, 168 men, women, and children died. Each left behind stunned, grieving relatives and loved ones; each left behind a personal history suddenly become part of the cultural and psychic property of the nation, as in the instance of Baylee Almon, whose corpse, cradled in the arms of a fireman, became an iconic image. As Linenthal writes in this careful work of cultural history, it fell on Oklahomans to process their grief in the wake of "violent mass death," no easy task, and to design and construct an appropriate memorial--which, after painful arguments over every detail, they did, and to stunning effect. Linenthal's thoughtful account summarizes some of the many lessons to be drawn from the Oklahoma City attack, lessons that, sadly, the world has had to learn anew. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Americans wrestled with three incomprehensible facts: that it happened in the heartland, that its victims included small children and that it was perpetrated by fellow Americans. The media, government officials and individuals wondered if Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols represented the lunatic fringe or if they were symptoms of our historically violent society. Linenthal (Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields), professor of religion and American culture at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and an expert on American memorializing, brings tremendous sensitivity to his examination of the psychic consequences of the bombing, based on interviews with more than 150 direct participants, including mental health professionals, educators and clergy, and on exclusive access to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Archive. Critical of "the medicalization of grief," whereby grief is considered symptomatic of illness and therefore finite, he also faults public figures, including former President Clinton, for casting the 168 victims of the senseless tragedy as patriots who sacrificed their lives for America. Particularly moving is Linenthal's account of the construction and dedication of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, which prompts many visitors to leave something personal (poems, flowers, crucifixes) at the site. Linenthal places the site at the pinnacle of "memorial hierarchy" because, by reminding us and imparting a lesson, it suggests that "all is not lost." Itself a kind of tribute, his study astutely explores the phenomena of memorializing, grieving and healing. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)Forecast: No book concerning the bombing has so comprehensively addressed the national psyche. This combination of psychological insight and cultural criticism, along with the hopeful assessment of a still-fresh tragedy, will attract a wide audience.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195161076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195161076
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Leonard on March 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
'The Unfinished Bombing' provides a glimpse into what happened in Oklahoma City AFTER the bombing, and details the evolution of the National Memorial completed in 2000. In light of what happened on 9/11/2001, this book provides a remarkable insight into how we as a society grieve and memorialize sites of national tragedy. This is not any easy or simple process, and Linenthal does an excellent job in explaining what happened in OKC, and the wide variety of issues that were confonted in developing the memorial.
I would recommend this book to anyone considering how America should memorialize the World Trade Center site.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on January 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In so many ways this is a fascinating and thoughtful book on one of the most important tragedies in American public life in the last decade of the twentieth century. No area of historical study in the last twenty years has been more important than the nature of memory and "The Unfinished Bombing" is an attempt to understand how Americans have recalled the April 19, 1995, instance of domestic terrorism that took place in Oklahoma City. On that day Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols conspired to explode a truck bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killing 168 people, injuring many more, and opening a wound on the national landscape about the nature of modern American democracy. It is an exceptional study of how stories about the past become a master narrative, and what lessons they teach to those affected. This memory is constructed gradually over time as people reflect on the meaning of what has transpired, and much of what emerges is not so much a fable or falsehood as it is a kind of poetry about events and situations that have great significance for the people involved. The memories over time become more significant than the cold, hard facts of the past, insofar as they are recoverable at all, and become the essential truths of the past for the members of a cultural group who hold them, enact them, or perceive them. This book helps to pull those ideas together into a coherent discussion concerning the 1995 bombing.

Edward T. Linenthal, now at Indiana University where he edits the "Journal of American History," draws on extensive field work in Oklahoma City to construct this analysis of public memory and memorialization. Most interesting to me was how three preferred narratives emerged from the bombing, all rooted in personal understandings of what took place.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mary K Fanning on January 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're looking for an introduction to the Oklahoma City Bombing, this isn't the book you want. The author is primarily concerned with the development of memorialization, and how the community processed an infamous tragedy. The information on the actual bombing (perpetrators, procedure, etc.) is minimal, and the author's approach is distinctly academic. The academic tone of the book is nicely balanced with personal anecdotes of survivors and family members, saving the book from being overly dry. Personally, I enjoyed the unique focus of the text, and believe that it would be useful for interpreting any memorial process.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aria on September 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I mean, I'm not sure the feedback to be left in the process of purchasing a textbook. It arrived later than I expected, but the book itself has no flaws to speak of. It was at a reasonable price and I suppose that's all that can be said for a textbook purchase. Heyo.
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5 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael Oppenheim on March 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City shook the nation and produced a modest flurry of books. This late addition fills in a few blanks that may interest specialists.
A life of Timothy McVeigh might enjoy wide appeal, and terrorist plots have a gruesome fascination, but readers won�t find them here. Edward Linenthal, Professor of Religion and American Culture at the University of Wisconsin spends little time on the bombers and the explosion. He has written a history of ideas, an academic field in which the books may outnumber the readers. In works of this genre, the author first asks a question. Thus, was the bombing a senseless atrocity? Or was it an act one would expect in the U.S., a culture that glamorizes violence? Having asked a question, the author doesn�t answer it. He collects everyone else�s answer, assembling page after page of quotes from editorials, talk shows, pundits, politicians, clergymen, and academics. After recording these thoughts, the author draws no conclusions. The chapter ends. Another chapters introduces another question. Was God or Satan responsible for the catastrophe? Oklahomans are a conservative people, and there is no shortage of feeling that a federal government that keeps the Bible out of schools bears much responsibility. Ironically, clergymen are far more restrained than laymen in laying blame. Mostly, clergymen admit they can�t explain it.
For years after the blast, the city argued vehemently over a proper memorial for the victims. The author considers this such an important controversy that he devotes half the book to it. With the memorial complete, I doubt if many residents of Oklahoma City want to read about the pros and cons of the design. It has even less appeal to anyone else.
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