Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review: Wichita Eagle online

A nice little review from Lisa McLendon at the Wichita Eagle. I truly appreciate the close reading:

Nearly 30 years ago, before perestroika and glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lawrence, Kansas, was overrun by refugees from a nuclear blast. Allen Fieldhouse turned into a trauma center, neighbors turned against neighbors, death and destruction overtook the population, and what was left of society broke down. At least it all did on TV.

The TV movie "The Day After," which aired in 1983, was set and filmed in Lawrence. It was a daring movie, pretty heavy for TV at the time, and it was intended to be an unflinching look at what the aftermath of a nuclear attack could look like.

It's against the backdrop of this movie that Steven Church sets his memoir, " The Day After 'The Day After': My Atomic Angst" (Soft Skull Press, 218 pages, $14.95 paper), a touching, insightful look at growing up in Kansas during the waning days of the Cold War, and the lasting influence that childhood events can carry. o

"My generation is really the first generation to have television memories that are not mostly tinged with nostalgic, warm, and fuzzy undertones," Church notes. "We're perhaps the first generation to be raised by the TV as a substitute entertainer and authority, a major familial and cultural institution in our lives —with all the complicated dynamics that entails."

Church details his childhood with pieces of history and culture — Quantrill's Raiders to the Incredible Hulk — aptly dropped in. Though he doesn't come across as a "troubled child," it's obvious that the label would have been applied to him at the time, coming from a home broken by divorce, perhaps a little too preoccupied with war and violence. But he artfully captures how kids can latch onto an idea and blow it all out of proportion in their minds, and how that idea can shape, though not necessarily scar, someone, and even make that person better down the line.

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