Picks and Pans Review: Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber
by David Gelernter
As he sits in a California jail cell awaiting his November trial, Theodore Kaczynski, the suspected Unabomber, seems like yesterday’s news, less an evil figure to be reviled than a loony, almost comically unkempt mad genius (he was even parodied in a Saturday Night Live skit). That moral free ride for a man accused of killing two people and maiming several others is a lingering source of anguish for Gelernter, a Yale computer science professor who lost the use of his right hand and some of his eyesight after opening one of the technophobic terrorist’s mail bombs in 1993.
Understandably, Gelernter’s eloquent book about his ordeal is suffused with that pain and frustration, though the targets of his wrath are a surprise—not his attacker, derisively dubbed Hut Man, but the media, for glorifying victimhood, and the public, for becoming complacent about terrorism. (He’s also peeved at this magazine for naming the Unabomber one of 1996’s most intriguing people.)
Gelernter is persuasive, if a little professorial, on the subject of society’s “disastrous unwillingness to draw a sharp, hard line between good and evil.” More engaging is the story of his difficult recovery—how his wife and two young sons helped him adjust to writing and painting left-handed; how he used Beethoven’s late quartets as a spiritual balm. Determined not to let others put their spin on his distress, Gelernter has countered the Unabomber’s screeds with his own compelling survivor’s manifesto. (Free Press, $21)