Friday, July 29, 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: July 2016

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb
Writer and Artist: Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
via Amazon
This one was another Suze recommendation.

Trinity was the code name for the first test of an atomic bomb created by the Manhattan Project during World War II.  Fetter-Vorm's graphic novel presents an excellent historical account of the project and its aftermath.  I particularly appreciate the author's explanation of the science of atomic energy, a prime example of the effectiveness of sequential art over text alone.  The book is particularly effective in the end as the scientists involved come to terms with what they had created.  It's worth noting, most had no idea of the full scope of the Project, having been told only enough to complete their own small portion of the work.  Even the lead scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, didn't understand the full power of the weapon until it was used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

One could design an entire college course around graphic novels about the atomic bomb.  In addition to this book, the bomb is a topic well covered in Japanese manga.  Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen series is a brutal account of the bomb's aftermath in Hiroshima.  Shigeru Mizuki's Showa series includes the bombs but from a broader historical perspective.  Both series are highly critical of Japan's own war record.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post August's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is August 26th.


  1. That is amazing that the scientists were not aware of the power of what their little bit of the project would and did do when it all came together.

    1. The most horrifying surprise, even for those like Oppenheimer who knew plenty, was radiation sickness.

  2. I had a professor who worked in some early nuclear plants. He had some scary stories.

  3. Whoa. Graphic novels are just overwhelming, for me. I read PERSEPOLIS and absolutely burst into tears on the final page. There's something so immediate and visceral about the images, that I'm sure I'd be terrorized by this one.

    Do you think the format makes it more amenable to younger readers? Those who are, perhaps, disenchanted with our primary/secondary school history educations which seem to center on Revolutionary --- WWII and never quite reach the recent mess of our politics and policies?

    1. Short answer: yes!

      Longer answer: at this point, I feel well-equipped to teach a 20th/21st century history/culture course based on graphic novels. There are so many good ones. Persepolis is probably the best of the best but there are many others.

      In addition to the three I've referenced in this post:

      Maus (Holocaust, probably the next must-read after Persepolis)
      Best of Enemies (a thorough history of US/Middle East relations)
      Berlin (pre-War Germany)
      The Rabbi's Cat (pre-War Algeria)
      Pretty much anything by Joe Sacco, though be forewarned, his work is heavy. I especially liked Palestine.

      Even a lot of the good fiction is tinged with political rhetoric. V for Vendetta is outstanding, though you might want to read it first. It's not as heavy as Sacco's stuff but some of it can be tough.

      I'm just scratching the surface here. I'm sure there's other stuff I'm forgetting and, of course, loads more I haven't read. I hope you and your family have fun exploring. Let me know what treasures you find!

    2. Great suggestions. We'll have to take that plunge!

  4. I love this whole series, which helps bring history to life for people who might otherwise find it boring.