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Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma Paperback – August 4, 2005
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Now in this new biography, Bernstein brings his well known skills at chronicling famous scientists to bear upon this remarkable man. There have been a few biographies of him so far. Probably the one by Peter Michelmore is most compelling. (The Swift Years: The Robert Oppenheimer Story)The closest that one can get to knowing him well is through his touching and insightful collection of letters, chronicled by Alice Kimball Smith and Charles Weiner.(Robert Oppenheimer: Letters and Recollections) But almost forty years after his death in 1967, what made him tick still seems a mystery. Was it his innate charisma and the blue, innocent, harrowing glare of his eyes, or his lightning fast mind? Was it his incredible knowledge about all things intellectual, from physics to Dante to the Bhagavad Gita? Was it his mesmerising command over the English language, a mixture of spell binding and obscure words, that drew hundreds to his lectures? Or was it his role as the Hamlet and conscience of the atomic age?Read more ›
This is not a massive tome with large quantities of detail related to any one specific area of Oppenheimer's life, but provides information that tends to hold the massive amounts of data which has been written about him at a more personal level.
All in all, a readable, cogent, human book about a man whose life seems filled with contradictions and disparate interests.
I couldn't be more wrong. Sadly, this is a poorly written, poorly edited book. Bernstein's credentials intrude embarassingly often as he frequently inserts inconsequential and irrelevant asides with anecdotes about when he perchance met someone in the narrative. He comes across as self-aggrandizing (and without merit - ouch!).
That aside, he also writes poorly, not knowing how to organize his story, when to provide details, etc. I can't imagine I've ever read a book (especially a short 200 page essay) with so many awkward forward references: "I will come back to the matter ..." occurs far too many times for readibility. On the other hand, he will detour into a technical explanation of Plutonium-239 v Plutonium-240, then not use the information for any apparent purpose.
All that said, I can imagine that real students of Oppenheimer might find this interesting precisely for the odd tidbits he may offer that aren't in any other bios or narratives of the time. Such students also will find it easier to navigate through his disorganized narrative of the hearing and so forth. More general readers should look elsewhere. I myself will be trying Brotherhood of the Bomb next.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Outstanding biography. Well documented support information about major controversial episodes in J. Robert Oppenheimer's life. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Marvin E. Morris
Bernstein writes well and has produced one of the best balanced accounts of a very complicated man caught in a tragic struggle between ideologues.Published on June 28, 2014 by Derek Boyd
Everytime I think I've read all there is on the life of JR Oppenheimer, I discover another book to read. Read morePublished on December 23, 2008 by Loves to Knit
It has seemed to me for a long time that Oppenheimer's life story, what little we know of it, would be an excellent resource - a lumberyard of plots and characters -- for a spy... Read morePublished on August 6, 2005 by reader
Robert Oppenheimer's life ties into three enormous dramas of the 20th century: the ascendancy of particle physics as a huge, thrilling new area of human knowledge . . . Read morePublished on April 13, 2005 by George Anders