by David Harris ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 24, 1982
For some 30 years--from the late 1940s until his 1980 assassination by a schizophrenic former protÃ‰gÃ‰--Allard Lowenstein, betimes a one-term Congressman, was the most influential figure in American student politics. Harris, himself one of Lowenstein's hundreds of passing protÃ‰gÃ‰s, purports to tell the story of Lowenstein, of Dennis Sweeney who shot him, and of Harris himself--former radical student body president at conservative Stanford, former husband of Joan Baez, former felon for draft refusal. The book, however, is revealing without being insightful. We see Lowenstein, as an assistant dean at Stanford in '62, recruiting prospects away from fiats to an ""outcast"" dorm re-envisioned as a ""model community,"" and Sweeney respondhag to that vision--but we never learn, so spotty is Harris' coverage of Lowenstein's earlier life, the origin of the messianic persona. We are informed of Sweeney's ""disillusionment"" with Lowenstein after the Atlantic City compromise over seating Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegates--and, offsettingly, of later instances of Sweeney's personally erratic behavior. We hear criticism of Lowenstein for grand-standing, for being ""demagogic,"" for using people; there is no follow-through. Harris himself marries and disposes of Joan Baez in a single page: ""We were public creatures. Sweet-voiced heroine of a generation joins with young knight advancing in the battle for peace in our time. Without the intoxication of those years and the image they fostered, I doubt whether the relationship would ever have come off."" At the last, as fragmentarily, the ""sexual question"" surfaces: there were no young women in Lowanstein's entourage, there were allegations in regard to Sweeney. So, much is disinterred of those heady days that peaked when Lowenstein, as much as anyone, brought together the student army that toppled Lyndon Johnson; but there is no focus, no resolution. How much, finally, did Harris himself, like Sweeney, resent the fact that Lowenstein's offer of friendship was in truth ephemeral? Curious readers may be expected, but few satisfied ones.
Pub Date: June 24, 1982
Page Count: -
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1982
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