Truman said he “never lost any sleep” over Hiroshima and Nagaski. About this particular point he was insistent. He said it repeatedly over the years and even told Paul Tibetts, pilot of the Enola Gay, “Don’t you ever lose any sleep over the fact that you planned and carried out that mission.” The amount of sleep one does not lose is an interesting metric.
When the Trinity test occurred in 1945 and the first nuclear bomb was successfully detonated, Robert Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad Gita. Einstein remained silent.
Mike Meginnis’s first novel Fat Man and Little Boy is the dream Truman did not have while he was not losing any sleep. It is what Einstein saw as a silent film. This is the story of two bomb brothers making their way through the world. Pika don.
Fat Man was born August 9, 1945, in Nagasaki; Little Boy was born three days earlier, in Hiroshima. They are conceived in slaughter. Little Boy finds his chubby brother cowering amidst the ruins and they must decide what to do with themselves, these two sad, strange creatures who are trying to be human. They decide on France—it’s a parody of that unoriginal American fantasy—ah yes, France, where we can finally be ourselves.
At first they behave like baffled robots speaking in an expository style that blends in with the surrounding prose. By the time they get to France, however, the brothers’ perspectives have diverged: Fat Man, corpulent with death, his enormous body a burden of guilt, feels responsible for the atrocities, whil Little Boy grows increasingly petulant and infantile and ignores the horror. “Nothing you could have done,” he tells his brother.
Rosie, an American widow whose husband died in the European theater, has come to France to build the first in what will be a world-wide hotel chain, where everyone from all the nations of the world can come together to learn each other’s language and culture. It’s a parodic mix of the post-war spirit as well as the inanity of idealism.
The novel is about the morality of the bomb, an exploration of personal and historical guilt, the weight of death–how do we move on from so much death?
Meginnis is strongest when writing detailed scenes, instead of conveying broad information through exposition (since his expository writing often gets of repetition). A spiritual medium, who later becomes an important character and avatar, talks on behalf of the swarming dead where suffuse the lives of Fat Man and Little Boy. There is no way to overcome such death, such destruction, yet over time the agony dissipates; eventually Fat Man sheds his enormity. Pika don becomes but a memory. Still we keep losing sleep.