cover image Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber

Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber

David Hillel Gelernter. Free Press, $20.5 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-684-83912-7

In June 1993, Yale computer scientist Gelernter (Mirror Worlds) was--in his own words--""blown up"" by a letter from the Unabomber. In turn, his hitherto quiet life was then blown up by the media. With poetic justice, in this tart report Gelernter uses his newfound fame to leverage his views on several matters, including the intrusive media. So while this book is a memoir, quite moving, about what it's like to suffer pain, indignity and loss, and to try to ""put things back together,"" it's also a critique, quite bristly, of a national state of affairs that, Gelernter contends, helped to create the media feeding frenzy and other ills. In a different and better America, he writes, ""The new institutions...would spare us any pathetic, patronizing assertions that the basis of American government and society is other than white, European and Christian."" These assertions abound, Gelernter argues, because sometime in the 1960s, ""intellectuals took over the elite"" and, in a moral ""revolution,"" made tolerance ""the only unquestioned good."" Many readers will disagree vigorously with these views, but hopefully they won't lose sight, amidst the preaching, of Gelernter's more supple and subtle account of coming to terms with his post-bomb existence: of rejecting the label of ""victim""; of finding, amidst his fevered life, ""the mother lode of cool"" in Beethoven's string quartets; of learning how to write with his left hand. Gelernter steps on toes in this courageous, prickly book, but he walks tall as he does. First serial to Time magazine. (Sept.) FYI: In early 1998, Basic Books will publish Gelernter's Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Computing.