The Idea of Hiroshima

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's generally accepted that Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player of all time. He won five Stanley Cups, owns virtually every NHL scoring record, and is revered as the face of hockey. In theory, someone with the credentials of The Great One would make for an equally as perfect head coach.

In short, Wayne, being the greatest player ever, would certainly have a fantastic chance at being the greatest coach ever.

His head coaching record of 143-161-24, coupled with an unceremonious pink slip ceremony, tells us that maybe Wayne wasn't suited for a career behind the bench. In theory, it should have been a successful union. In reality, it was a bigger flop than any of his wife's made for TV movies.

Which segues into John Hersey's Hiroshima. In theory, this recount of the immediate aftermath of one of the world's deadliest moments should have been a riveting, sweat inducing page-turner. And, to an extent it is. Vivid moments drenched in detail, such as when Hersey writes about how some people dined on nuclear heated pumpkins and potatoes, will have a place in my mind until I should ever lose it. 

But it just didn't do it for me. And here's why: it's poorly written. Forget the long, foreign names, or the long, run on sentences. I wasn't able to connect with the people affected by the tragedy. And isn't that the point of a work like this? To be able to sympathize with someone who's gone through such a painful and horrific experience? Just too many characters, too many places, and not enough context, background and profoundness. 

Yes, being there, as Hersey was, is of paramount importance. But relaying stories, images, people, and information on the experience at hand in a way that resonates with your audience is of equal, if not greater importance. 

I found Hiroshima as interesting as hieroglyphics. Yes, they're interesting. Yes, they're important. But they’re hard to understand. They don't speak to me as they spoke to the ancient Egyptians.

But maybe Hiroshima wasn't written for an audience in the year 2011 -- an audience with the benefit (or mis-benefit) of hindsight and revisionism. Maybe it was written for an audience attempting to reconcile itself with the horrid destruction of another land and its people. Maybe Americans felt guilty. Maybe they didn't. 

The idea of Hiroshima, one that puts us in the eye of the hurricane, is great in theory. But, like Wayne Gretzky's coaching career, doesn't quite hit the mark.   


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