Thursday, November 6, 2008

Review: We Interrupt This Broadcast

genre: non-fiction
rating: 5/5

I have long been an avid fan of photojournalism. I was a subscriber to Life Magazine for many years when I was a teen and in college, even purchasing some of the "photos of the year" books. When I saw that this book was available, I was anxious to read it. I love the concept of keeping a record of those stories that made us stop in our tracks and tune in, becoming a part of a "collective viewing" (a term from the afterword), those moments where we can tell others later where we were when we heard the news.

The thing this book does well is that it gives us a context in which to appreciate these events as they happened. Did you know that the Hindenburg was primarily financed by Nazi money? And for that reason the US made it impossible for their company to purchase our helium (which apparently, we held the market on at the time?) Or that this is the reason the Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen instead, which is more flammable? Yeah, me neither. Over and over again I learned things that added depth to the sketchy facts I knew about different news stories.

Because most of us have heard of these events countless times, they have lost their impact and because many of them happened either before I was alive or when I was too young to understand, I cannot personally read about them with the emotion that they certainly elicited when they actually happened. Listening to the cds, however, and hearing the raw emotion and terror with which some of these stories were reported truly can give you a sense for how shocking and traumatic it was to have lived at the time. Sometimes, like when Robert Kennedy or Lee Harvey Oswald were actually assassinated while a reporter was talking on the air, my heart began racing because the reporters were reporting on these horrible things as they were happening in front of them. This was also the case with the Hindenburg, when the reporter was yelling at people to run and get out of the way or they will be hit by a flaming zeppelin as it crashes to the ground in their midst. The cds really do add great dimension and are worthwhile all on their own.

Can you tell I'm a fan of this book? It's extremely well done. It gives the biggest headlines not only background but also consequence. The modern history of our country and the events that shaped it are laid out in readable but not simplified text. The photography, those frames that represent the moment to us, are both stirring and familiar. If you are a news buff or a history buff or just a generally curious person, I think you will find something worthwhile in We Interrupt This Broadcast.


Anonymous said...

I thought this book looked fascinating, but wasn't sure I could read it since they mentioned the Virginia Tech shootings in the promo so much. My son was (and still is) at Tech at the time and I just didn't think I could re-live the horror of that day. Thanks for your review.

bethany said...

I just got this one too! I am glad to see your review, I have been taking a look and so far it is an exceptional portrayal for sure.

Great review!

Heather said...

I must get my hands on this book. Thanks for the head's up! :)

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