We’re constantly looking for clues of what comes next, in tarot cards and tea leaves, in augury and biography, too. But can we ever find our futures by such means? In three thematically linked essays, B.J. Hollars explores what harbingers might have been present in the lives of scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer before he invented the atomic bomb and civil rights activist Medgar Evers before he was murdered. He also considers his own overlooked portents in a static-filled universe. Taken together, these stories converge toward the humbling truth that life’s only certainty is uncertainty, and our harbingers—no matter how strong—only offer insight in the aftermath.
“Harbingers by B.J. Hollars is a haunting meditation on mortality, loneliness, the atomic bomb, and the violence of racial history. In a self-deprecating plain style, the three discrete essays, “Harbingers,” “The Loneliness of Oppenheimer,” and “Fragments for Medgar,” loosely form a triptych, a whole greater than their parts. Weaving together segments of personal narrative, travelogue, and research-based journalism, a complicated and interactive experience for the reader is created. Hollars succeeds remarkably in bringing humor to his sobering subject while embodying the darkness that thrums beneath the surface of our mortal lives.”
—Marcia Aldrich, author of Companion to an Untold Story
“In B.J. Hollars’s Harbingers, dangers abound. There are diseases that may lurk inside your DNA, nuclear bombs, people who will murder you for standing by your right to equality. And yet, in each of these three essays, there are ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, extraordinary in their steadfast determination to find what is good in the world. To suffer. To fight for it, still. Hollars is a masterful weaver, bringing together meticulously researched facts alongside personal insight, a harbinger himself for the kind of thoughtfulness that just might help us all. I love these essays.”
—Tessa Fontaine, author of The Electric Woman