The Chemistry of Fire

Laurence Gonzales. Univ. of Arkansas, $22.95 (248p) ISBN 978-1-68226-151-4
Gonzales (Flight 232), a former National Geographic feature writer, proves himself a chronicler par excellence of nature—including of the human variety—in this excellent essay collection. He explores both in “Mount Washington,” which begins as a piece about a New Hampshire mountain peak notorious for its deceptive weather conditions, and becomes a deep dive into human psychology and how, for climbers and others engaged in high-risk activities, “danger comes when you suspend your awareness of the hazard and refuse to change your plan.” By contrast, “Change Redemption” explores one of the most artificial of environments, a Las Vegas casino, and contemplates the effect of its dizzying atmosphere on its patrons: “Everything in the casino was bigger than we were, and as we grew, we participated in that giddy bigness while escaping the sense of loss as we shrank back to our normal size once more.” There’s a fascinating profile of the Navy man whose colossal scientific efforts led to discovering the wreckage of the Titanic (“Stealing Titanic”). In the devastating “ValuJet Crash,” Gonzales reveals how corporate malfeasance and regulatory negligence led to disaster in the Florida Everglades. The psychological nuance and vivid detail throughout will dazzle readers. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 07/10/2020
Release date: 11/20/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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