A Desperate Passion: An Autobiography

Helen Caldicott, Author W. W. Norton & Company $27.5 (366p) ISBN 978-0-393-03947-4
Intoxicated by radical movements at home and in the U.S., Australian-born Caldicott risked her marriage, family and career (including a Harvard appointment) to promote atomic disarmament and disparage (especially in Nuclear Madness) atomic power, to publicize feminist concerns and to press an environmentalist agenda. Although dumped by a backbiting male cabal as first president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, she remains a passionate exponent of her convictions, often, it seems, not letting reality intrude on them. Soviet leader Brezhnev and Foreign Minister Gromyko are among her heroes, as is Cuba's Fidel Castro. The Feds, she asserts, designated New Mexico a ""national sacrifice area,"" permitting it to be radioactively polluted ""for the national good."" In 1983, she charges, ""Humanity was almost converted to radioactive dust"" because of a ""belligerent NATO exercise."" Readers who persist beyond the gushiness, self-deception and Hollywood name dropping here will find an underlying pathos in the price of Caldicott's idealism and in the capacity for betrayal among competitors in the causes she espouses--treachery to which the naivete that helped stir her audiences left her exposed. ""I was devastated,"" she confesses, ""that dishonest dynamics could operate within one of the leading peace organizations of the country."" Caldicott has a flair for humane causes but not compelling prose. Only partisans are likely to plow through to the end. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 370 pages - 978-0-393-31680-3
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-393-28588-8
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