A Hole in the World

An American Boyhood Tenth Anniversary Edition

Richard Rhodes

When he first published A Hole in the World in 1990, Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes helped launch and legitimate a decade-long publishing phenomenon—the memoir of abused childhood. In this tenth anniversary edition, Rhodes offers new reflections on the abuse he and his older brother endured at the hands of their terrorizing stepmother and negligent father. He also describes readers' powerful and moving responses to his book, considers his changing sentiments as the years have passed, and provides additional details on his brother Stanley, who remains the author's true hero in this moving memoir.

“Unlike too much of what is offered for public edification (and titillation) in this our age of confession, A Hole in the World comes straight from the heart with no apparent self-serving motives. Richard Rhodes is here to tell us three things, all of them important and useful. The first is that it is dangerous and self-deluding to sentimentalize a myth of idyllic American childhood. The second is that a child caught in a hell not of his own making must devise strategies for survival and must cry out for help; there are others, outsiders, ready to provide it. The third—and to those caught in their own torment the most important—is that it is possible to escape, to rise above hurt and rage, to live a life that is useful and good. A timely contribution to the literature of a problem we are only beginning to understand.”

—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post.

“The deepest significance of Rhodes’s prose is its spring-fed clarity. He writes: ‘My unconscious early prose—it was largely unconscious in those days because I thought the only way I could write was to get drunk first—screens a predicament I struggled desperately to steady at [school] and continue to work forty years later to resolve: how to calm and to rescue the lurching monster of overwhelming, intractable, involuntary rage that my mother’s suicide, my father’s neglect and my stepmother’s violence installed in me.’ To judge from the simplicity with which he has woven his memories into narrative, and from it constructed his identity, the monster of rage has been laid to rest.”

—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
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About the Author

Richard Rhodes received both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for The Making of the Atomic Bomb. His most recent book is Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist. He grew up in Kansas City and Independence, Missouri, and now lives in Connecticut.