THE DESTINED HOUR by Barbara & Barry Rosen with George Feifer Rosen
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The hostage crisis, plus media exposure, turned Barbara and Barry Rosen into overnight celebrities--and the chief interest of their book lies in their willingness to further expose themselves. . . even while protesting (Barbara, especially) media exploitation, crassness, emotionalism. (""I came to view the key influence on the treatment of public affairs as soap opera."") To Feifer's credit, they do come off sounding sincere and gauche. The first hundred pages, moreover, have mainly to do with Barry Rosen's enchantment with things Iranian, during a 1960s Peace Corps stint, and the political situation he found when he returned as a Press Officer in 1978--to establish his sympathy with Iranian aspirations and (now well-known) American misperceptions. Once the Embassy is seized, however, the book revolves around two personal motifs: the Rosens' Catholic-pragmatist/Jewish-romantic marriage and--more worthy of serious attention--Barry Rosen's breakdown in captivity. From the chapters narrated by Barbara, we learn of wedding-day wrangles over religious protocol, her intense attachment to her all-enveloping family, and some easing-up, furthered by the hostage crisis (her grandmother speaks of ""my Barry,"" his mother comes for Christmas dinner). Barry, meanwhile, confides his get-ahead readiness to be parted from Barbara and the children. Thus another potential conflict builds with Barbara's move from family protection and Barry's tutelage into the limelight--through visits to Washington, Bonn, and Rome, and all those TV interviews. ""I wanted him to be proud of what I had done""--but his letters revealed some resentment, along with ""idyllic"" expectations. ""Were our experiences reinforcing contradictory elements in our personalities?"" Was he looking forward to ""a heightened version of the woman he had left?"" His experience, in stark contrast, was ghastly: ""I had always overreacted to being wronged--which, as I grew older, included restrictions on my freedom."" Now, deprived of any outlet for his rage, he crumbled. ""My pulse raced too fast to get a count. My heart had become a crazed pump. . . . My limbs jerked like a puppet's. . . . Had I guessed that an hour-by-hour battle with the demon would continue throughout almost four hundred days of captivity ahead, I would have wept for mercy."" Once released, he began immediately to recover; together again, she feels oppressed (""Every day my dilemma of what to make of myself grows heavier""), while he is admittedly ""back to 'ego' and 'striving'"" and (as she puts it) ""in his element."" Of the larger hostage experience, we learn relatively little (save verification of two rumored suicide attempts, and word of others depressed); as to how Barry might have held up better, he suggests prior preparation--on the basis that the military men were the least unhinged. His confession of weakness nonetheless remains the book's one clear strength.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday