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How the author of The Greening of America cultivated his own plot. As a young Washington lawyer with a top firm, Reich was a disillusioned, resentful conformist by day, lonely and anxious at night--socially insecure, sexually null. Blighted, in his view, by Washington's sterile, high-pressure society. Only teenagers ""still had juices running in them,"" only for Dave, the highschool son of friends, did he have real--unthinkable--sexual feelings. On the Yale Law School faculty, a more ""comfortable imprisonment,"" he resigned himself to being abjectly alone. Then a stay in Berkeley in the heady summer of '67 brought about the transformation that he calls ""my Turning"": ""I who had gone all of my life on my own inner energy, burning up some inner fuel, parts working and wearing out, driving, driving, driving, work, classes, tests, teaching. . . I who strained and struggled, who bit fingernails down to the quick. . . I could lie back and let life come to me."" When the ""new consciousness"" reached Yale, Reich changed his teaching, his dress, his demeanor; fraternized with students; and made of their attitudes The Greening of America. Fame, peer rejection, despondency followed, as the ""new consciousness', receded; moreover it was time, at 43, ""to learn the truth about myself."" So Reich returned to San Francisco, dipped into the gay subculture, and with a proficient hired partner, made it at last: he was ""a normal, natural, sexual being!"" Straight or gay, relaxed or repressed, one is ready to cheer. He has more to say about homosexual relationships, his first liaison with a woman, his final departure from Yale. ""The key to change was to learn how to better satisfy one's own needs""; and from individual change would come social change, a message all-too-familiar from the human potential movement. Reich's writing and thinking are utterly banal, but the insistent surge of his delivery, his evangelical zeal to save other lost souls, and his self-exposure are bound to turn people on. Only afterward does one learn that events are fictionalized and some persons are ""wholly fictional."" That's authenticity for you.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1976
Publisher: Random House