ODD MAN IN by Edward Sagarin


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At a time when it's become almost fashionable to be a member of a minority group, and people are striving to outdo each other in conforming to nonconformity, even the most marginal members of society--alcoholics, addicts, homosexuals, ex-convicts--have taken heart, presenting the press with the phenomenon of demonstrating deviants, pariahs on the picket line, and offering their fellow outcasts an opportunity for organizational support, social contact, and self-help. This banding together in recent years of deviant and stigmatized people for purposes agitational and recreational is subjected to a critical scrutiny by Sagarin, who accuses overly sympathetic social scientists of underdog worship and the glossing over of errors, shortcomings, and possibly even harms that these groups might cause. The survey starts with Alcoholics Anonymous, which originated the use of the ""confessional"" to create in-group solidarity and generated a prodigious array of offspring, including Gamblers Anonymous, Illegitimates Anonymous, and Fatties Anonymous. Sagarin then zeros in on the homophile Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis, the transvestite COG and CATS, the Synanon movement, the various groupings of convicts and mental patients both present and past, and the Little People of America. The lumping together of such diverse problems as dwarfism, drug addiction, and sexual deviation is unfortunate, and Sagarin avoids dealing with the roots of social alienation. He also fails to draw some of the larger connections suggested by the recurring themes of group therapy, enhancing of self-image, and forging a positive identity which might make these groups seem less deviant and more relevant to society at large. Nonetheless it is a titillating distillation of what goes on beyond the fringe.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1969
Publisher: Quadrangle