Memories of growing up ""in the iron grip of freedom""--as actor/journalist Broun recalls, with wry post-psychotherapy...



Memories of growing up ""in the iron grip of freedom""--as actor/journalist Broun recalls, with wry post-psychotherapy insights, his 1920s/30s childhood in the home of two very famous, unconventional parents: megs-columnist Heywood Broun; and feminist Ruth Hale. Heywood Sr. was huge, infinitely charming, famous for his unmade-bed attire--but he lived in the psychic shadow of his elegant, imperious Manhattan parents, avoided intimacy at all costs, was riddled by phobias. (""No man afraid of so many things ever accomplished so much."") Ruth, too, was far less free of her stifling Southern background than she seemed: though pettily fanatical in her feminism, she devoted most of her creativity to ""the advancement of Heywood's career through criticizing his writing, correcting it, and sometimes simply doing it."" And the birth of ""Woodie"" was a ""distraction for which she wasn't and never would be prepared."" Still, in N.Y. apartments (separate floors for the two equal spouses) and in a ramshackle country house, these unlikely, fearful parents worked hard to give their only child a liberated, anxiety-free boyhood. The result? Exactly the opposite, of course: Woodie grew up feeling unloved, confused, sickly, angry but repressed; progressive school was a disaster (""In the course of unstructured play on the roof, bullies established small reigns of terror""); he was soon a strange adult/child mixture, prone to relentless showing-off for his parents' Algonquin Club friends (""the boy soprano or the midget wit of the dinner table""). And, despite Heywood Sr.'s fumbling attempts at paternal camaraderie, Woodie would never be comfortable with his big, scared, disappointed father--not even after the Broun/Hale divorce, Ruth's early death, and Heywood's remarriage to a ""soubrette in excelsis."" Now, however, over 40 years later (Heywood died early, too), Broun has obviously come to terms with the past, portraying himself and his parents in the sad, darkly amused, sharp but forgiving tones of the successful analysand. And if this modest memoir lacks the shape and drama of fully absorbing autobiography (the narrative's a bit static and repetitious), it's shrewdly phrased and honestly felt--with vivid glimpses of such family friends as Paul Robeson, Dorothy Parker, and Gene Tunney.

Pub Date: June 1, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983