GOLIATH by David Harris


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Men imprisoned for their principles have often turned to the power of the pen to serve their missions while serving time. David Harris, a Resistance activist in his first year of a three-year sentence for refusing to cooperate with the draft, takes on the American nation-state (Goliath, but no David identification intended) and all it symbolizes, offering an opposing vision of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness through nonviolent revolution. But Harris' manifesto is probably too diffuse and abstract to make many converts. The brunt of his message is conveyed in little analytical-philosophical pieces on subjects like being a man, the process of doing, politics and the common life, reality, existence, fear, the meaning of America, its myths of power, property, enemy, and weapon, the forces of life and death, and the Revolution. These moralistic tracts are balanced by short sequences in which Harris exercises his (not inconsiderable) powers of description on the look and feel of American life: the city of Chicago, the character of Los Angeles, an airplane flight and overheard conversation on Vietnam, a disturbing dream, a close friend on the run, a country church revival meeting, a prison rebellion, laborers in the field, children at school, etc., etc.--the salt of the earth and the sickness of the state. ""We have been superseded by the life of the state: when we might bloom, we are directed; when we might learn, we are instructed; when we might heal, we are wounded; when we might see, we are told to mask ourselves and pretend that what is, isn't, and that what isn't, never will be."" Harris repeatedly foreshadows and finally describes his own trial, but essentially this is a pretty impersonal story. ""The book is really about you and me,"" writes wife Joan Baez in her introduction, ""and what we must do to keep from being crushed by Goliath, and then what we must build in place of it."" But readers may find the substance hard to grasp and the tone rather remote.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1970
Publisher: Baron