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term for “lesbian.” This is all very fortu nate, for it allows the author to display his knowledge of Latin as well as of German. The Situation, of course, leads to The Crisis, which is the confrontationmediated by an ill-behaved house catbetween the rabbi and the Jew-in-name-only mother. The Crisis costs the mother her sanity and makes the rabbi agnostic, or perhaps merely more agnostic, or something. He seems to detect that an old Jewish immigrant is in fact Elijahyes, the Elijah the Tishbitebut this seems either to matter a great deal, or not at all. Actually there is such a mess of apparitions, drunken stupors, laudanum-induced reveries, dreams, near-death experiences, deliriums, and hallucinations, that is difficult to say what any of the characters might believe if he or she ever woke up with a clear head. Meanwhile, the boy is getting into mischief, or at least onanism and perhaps sodomy with his companion, and breaking and entering, and theft of an alleged aircraft, and so forth. The spending of his mother and her brother-in-law, while no one keeps an eye on the plant to keep the beer from going bad, results in foreclosure on the boy’s home. His mother is taken back to Newawleans, and the boy is left with the lesbians. That is about it. Although it takes many hours of solving the author’s little verbal puzzles to obtain even this outline, readers who regularly conduct their banking business according the appearance of angels have met Elijah, may have an easier time of it. 4, ‘,Ltd pw -tics. 1111. Ilk I ‘iii\(/rte /./H-Hpeti,/ \(7/\(07,/ f \(‘ ,Iiiiwythri -c il I R\\Ils Ft j Pets Welcome fir iiii” Port Aransas.1’X 78373 i \(..,:ii/ / Ri-.cri .,:i r i\( ni., Ar r:irw ..orto…,, t , s A, 011,_ _.,441;11`. view 11 ,-. %……..` BY JAMES W. KUNETKA ATOMS, BOMBS & ESKIMO KISSES. By Claudio G. Segre. Viking, 1995. 287 pages. $23.95. IT WAS ON A WARM DAY in August, 1945, that eight-year-old Claudio Segre first suspected that he the son of Superman. A radio newscaster announced that a new weapon something called an atomic bombhad been dropped on Japan. But what really caught the young Segre’s attention was the fact that the new bomb had been developed in the same small town where he lived, only a few blocks from his house. And that meant that his father, a physicist, had probably played a role. As it turned role was significant. In his wonderful new book, Atoms, Bombs & Eskimo Kisses, Claudio Segre writes with genial insight about his unusual childhood as both the son of a famous scientist and the admirer of the comic-book hero, Superman. But he also tells a darker, more intimate story, that of a relationship between a father and son that for half a century was more often tense than it was warm. Segre sets the stage for his non-fiction bookhe calls it a “Memoir of Father and Son”with a quote from the nineteenth century essayist, Austin O’Malley: “The worst misfortune that can happen to an ordinary man is to have an extraordinary father.” And what a father he was. Emilio Segre was the brilliant contemporary of Enrico Fermi. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Italy, the elder Segre began to study the secrets of the atom in the early 1930s. Like Fermi, Segre was among the first to learn in 1938 of the German discovery of nuclear fission. And like his friend, Segre was quick to realize Austin writer James W. Kunetka is the author of a popular history of Los Alamos during World War II and a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and has also written five novels. that atomic fission not only promised unlimited energy but also unbounded destruction. As refugees from Nazi tyranny, Segre and a host of other brilliant scientists brought their knowledge and their concerns to the United States. With America at war, Segre was wooed by J. Robert Oppenheimer to a secret labo ratory in northern New Mexico, a place with a name that appeared on few maps. At Los Alamos, he and his fellow refugees worked side by side with American scientists to develop the world’s first atomic bombs. It was in this mysterious, remote setting that his son Claudio first realized that his father was not only the dominant force in his own life, but also that his father was a “senior man” in physicsone of the new scientific supermen who brought about not only the end of the war but the beginnings of an arsenal of new weapons so powerful that they made Armageddon a possibility. Segre continued his brilliant career at Berkeley after the war, teaching, continuing to peel away the secrets of the atom through research and a number of important scientific discoveries. In 1959, he was honored for his work with the Nobel Prize. The father’s great public success, however, did not automatically spill over into his family life. The elder Segre was a distant father, often unwilling or perhaps just unable to comprehend, much less meet the needs of, a young boy. Never cruel in the obvious sense, nor physically abusive, the father nonetheless extended his own demanding requirements for life to his son. The demands were there from the earliest years, unspoken or not: be the brightest, the best in school. Know the most. Read the most. A knowledge of things is more important than an understanding of people. The motto was simple: do, don’t be! Life for the son was also complicated by a sense of never quite fitting in. Claudio’s parents were Italian immigrants, albeit educated and cultured ones, but they were hardly All-American in the style of Andy Superman and Son A Memoir of Two Worlds of Family and Culture id It c I \\ c\( I I>O0I III\( \(it 1//0/\(//04 R/01/,/ Horse was out, his father’s “Most of all, it’s about a father and son reaching out to each other, trying to touch, too often out of reach. For me, we were never more alone than when together.” 10 DECEMBER 22, 1995