cover image Mr. Straight Arrow: The Career of John Hersey, Author of Hiroshima

Mr. Straight Arrow: The Career of John Hersey, Author of Hiroshima

Jeremy Treglown. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374280-26-0

Critic Treglown (Roald Dahl: A Biography) skillfully examines the career of novelist and journalist John Hersey, finding a man whose literary gifts made his work timeless. This account tells of Hersey’s birth to missionary parents in China and his formative years there before he moved back to the U.S. for his schooling, attending Yale and then embarking on his journalism career. He settled at the New Yorker, which made his name for good when it devoted the entire Aug. 31, 1946, issue to Hersey’s nonfiction account Hiroshima. Treglown’s focus is squarely on Hersey’s work, not his personal life, but the portrait that emerges of a deeply principled artist is all the clearer for it. Even when writing novels, Hersey’s “first impulse was to establish positively, painstakingly, and sympathetically what the facts of a case were,” Treglown asserts. Moreover, whether his subjects were the Hiroshima bombing’s victims or President Truman, Hersey “was someone whose decency was recognized by other decent people,” allowing him to make the deep connections his work required. This scrupulously researched study not only reveals much about the man behind the work, it reminds media-wary readers of what constitutes good journalism and why it is essential. [em](Apr.) [/em]