“Atom Boy!” (E28)

  • Originally printed: Liberty Magazine, February 14, 1931
  • First reprinted in: Benchley Lost and Found
  • Unable to compare reprint with original text – Liberty Historical Archives not available at Toronto Public Library
  • Original Byline: unknown


RB contemplates the Atomic Future with a mixture of bewilderment and cosmic irritation, soothed by genuine delight at the prospect of a post-work social order. As concepts like protons, neutrons, and atom smashing trickled into the popular consciousness via reporting on the theories and lab experiments of Ernest Rutherford and others, Transcendental Absurdists of a Benchleyan bent were bound to take an interest, if only until they realized some math would be involved.

This piece offers an excellent demonstration of RB’s perfected approach/avoidance style in dealing with abstruse subject matter (to compare the results with an earlier effort in this vein, see E11). Exasperated by the microscopic scale of his intellectual query (and quarry), our author veers momentarily off course into sub-vaudeville ethnic humor. This goes nowhere either and leads him back to the thought that everything – from open mic routines to the supposed building blocks of the universe – appears to be crumbling under the strain of humanity’s decaying orbit around superseded verities. But hey, if we can bombard the discombobulated fragments of the old order with alpha particles and generate enough leisure time for everyone, maybe it’ll all be worth it? (Annotater’s note – no luck on that score.)

Favourite Moment:
“I think there was even more to the story than that tantalizing bit I have given you, but it is too late now. We are back again on the atom.”

One thought on ““Atom Boy!” (E28)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s