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 A first novel that pretentiously tries to address some of the big questions of the 1960s by revisiting the period at a dizzying clip with a pastiche for a protagonist. As one character suggests, ``The sixties are about being reasonably weird . . . but a strange time is getting stranger,'' and this evolving strange time is experienced here by midwestern college student Dewitt Berkhoff. Dewitt is expected not only to bear witness to the times, but to learn how to fight for peace without resorting to violence. Each chapter of the novel, which begins in 1967 and ends in 1970 at Kent State, is prefaced with period headlines--``Coltrane Blows Final Note''; ``Che Guevara Killed By Bolivian Troops''--that are neat reminders of what was going on then, jogging the memory, but not really explicating Hetzner's theme. The dilemma implicit in this theme troubles Dewitt as he moves from being a member of a peaceful campus antiwar group that organizes demonstrations and marches on the Pentagon to becoming an unwitting participant in a bombing that kills two innocent people. The problem is that Dewitt, who seems to have been immaculately conceived for the story--his family, except for one Christmas card, remains offstage--is your average nice guy, overloaded here with heavy responsibilities that he's just not interesting or intelligent enough to handle. So his journey- -including his time in the movement, his attendance at the 1968 Democratic Convention, his relationships with various other hippies, his encounter with a wise Native American, and the death of a girlfriend at Kent State, with lots of drugs and sex tossed in along the way--only increases his moral confusion and adds nothing to our own understanding of the times. Drive-by history, rather than the long difficult march to the heart of the matter.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-55921-184-9
Page count: 344pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997