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A fragmentary, desultory, and rather pathetic memoir by the late stevedore-philosopher. Hoffer's life, as he recounts it here, was a restless, rootless, and generally sterile affair, full of blind spots and missed opportunities. He went literally blind at the age of seven and did not recover his sight until he was 15. This event marked the beginning of a career of passionate, undirected reading--but the end of his closest human relationship, with a warm, sensual substitute-mother named Martha. (In his strangely absentminded way, Hoffer never bothered to discover whether she was a relative or merely a housekeeper.) In the years that followed he tramped all over California, working as a fruit-picker, busboy, gold prospector, and a dozen other things--until he finally wound up in San Francisco just after Pearl Harbor and became a longshoreman for the next quarter century, eventually publishing The True Believer (1951) and making a name for himself. Hoffer's autobiography has a certain eccentric interest, but it mostly raises nagging questions. Why did he so often act with weird impulsiveness? (At 29, for no good reason, he decided to commit suicide by drinking oxalic acid, but suddenly changed his mind.) Why did he flee from long-term human contact? (He bolted and ran from a lovely woman in Berkeley who had fallen in love with him--and he with her.) Why, after all his years of exhausting and underpaid labor, did he seem to have no sympathy for the oppressed? And then there are alt those awful lectures on history-and-culture by a very half-baked autodidact. In his final lines Hoffer tells us he has no grievances and feels no remorse--perhaps because he was tone-deaf to the real music of human life. A sad but not moving farewell.

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1983
ISBN: 1933435011
Publisher: Harper & Row