The Organ Builder

Robert Cohen, Author HarperCollins Publishers $17.45 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-015909-2
In this disappointing first novel, the son of a nuclear scientist who served with J. Robert Oppenheimer's team at Los Alamos during World War II meanders through his past and present. Herschel Freeman, an attorney with a Wall Street firm specializing in copyright law, had an unhappy childhood. After growing up in the secluded New Mexico center where the atomic bomb was developed, he and his lonesome, alcoholic mother were deserted by his father. Now, in the late '70s, Hesh himself is separated from his wife and son. A husband-and-wife team collaborating on a film about the Manhattan Project approach him shortly before he is assigned, conveniently enough, to a case in New Mexico near his boyhood haunts, where a search for his father, adulterous love and the meaning of life ensues. Cohen, who has previously published short stories, has a style that teeters between extremes. When he writes seriously, his prose is exaggeratedly lyrical and self-involved. When he attempts a Jewish, wiseguy voice, he is never as clever as he apparently intends to be. Occasionally, his flashbacks to the exciting years at Los Alamos are engaging, but the novel makes no substantial fictional contribution to our understanding of the troubled legacy of those who invented the atomic bomb. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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