An Iowa college student discovers a new life filled with sex and adventure in this debut memoir by Hamit (Meltdown, 2012, etc.).
Excerpted from a much longer, forthcoming memoir, this book focuses solely on Hamit’s experiences while attending the University of Iowa in the 1960s, just as the Vietnam War gathered steam from the U.S. perspective. Fleeing a rough two years at an unidentified Bible college, Hamit blossomed at his new school and found himself enthralled with theater work, photography, playwriting, poker, and women. But Hamit’s time was taken up by more than just the distaff side of the college population. In a strange twist, he started working as an off-the-books undercover informant, looking for leads to help stem the tide of LSD and other drugs that Hamit viewed as harmful (“Knowing the risks, I stepped up and made a deal with the cops. Leave my friends alone, and I will give you the dealers”). Several of the women he was involved with were drug abuse survivors. He acquired a Walther pistol that he planned to carry only at night (“I might well have to kill someone if things got sticky and they came at me”). As one might expect, these different pursuits collided in unexpected and sometimes-dangerous ways, and Hamit ended up with an unusual, multifaceted education. Given that Hamit has made a living as a writer since his college years, readers should be unsurprised to find his prose smooth and confident, nailing the tenor of the times with verve while exploring the exultation and heartbreak of a young man discovering the dimensions of his character. While his days weren’t all filled with peace and love—besides his undercover activities, Vietnam War service lay in his future—Hamit’s voice remains cleareyed and optimistic. There’s no melancholy or darkness in his outlook, even when recalling grim events. There is, however, a lot of sex in these pages, so those uncomfortable with adult situations, including frank, though nonpornographic, descriptions of various acts, may wish to look elsewhere for their memoir reading.
Clarity, humor, polished writing, and an engaging narrator make for an enjoyable read.