Roundup: Nonfiction

Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan by Del Quentin Wilber.  Henry Holt (320 pp.)  Washington Post reporter Wilber interviewed over 100 people and scoured diaries and official documents to craft this gripping account.  He details the life and actions of the suicidal, would-be assassin John Hinckley, who opened fire outside the Washington Hilton on March 30, 1981; the life-saving work of surgeons in a chaotic trauma center; and the courage and good humor of President Reagan (“Rawhide”), who was  loosing blood and in pain.  There are vivid portraits of Secret Service agents, the badly wounded White House press secretary James Brady, and cuckoo Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Jr., a former Army general, who mistakenly told the nation, “I’m in control.”






Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein.  HarperCollins (272 pp.) The strangest things inspire people to create.  In these pages we hear from Isabel Allende, Yo-Yo Ma, Tony Kushner, Donald Hall, and others who have appeared on Public Radio’s “Studio 360,” produced by Burstein and hosted by novelist Kurt Andersen, who offers an illuminating foreword.  The notion of “beginner’s mind,” that Zen state of being an amateur open to experience, runs through these stories, says Andersen.  Poet Stanley Kunitz talks about his winding garden; painter Chuck Close recalls how childhood disabilities affected his work; musicians Alison Krauss and Robert Plant describe their magical collaboration across musical traditions. Good stuff.






Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema by David A. Kirby.  The MIT Press (264 pp.)  British scientist Kirby takes a semi-academic look at science and the movies. Moviegoers will be fascinated to learn how much—and how little—filmmakers draw on experts to get things right.  In filming Minority Report (2001), Steven Spielberg listened to physicists, computer scientists, and engineers.  Stanley Kubrick’s  staff consulted with 65 universities and research groups in making 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Is it worth it? “Bad science” may be avoided, says Kirby. But it’s hard to say whether good science is critical to a film’s success. The “scientifically ludicrous” Armageddon (1998) had a higher box office than the more accurate Deep Impact (1998).

-Joseph Barbato


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