A haunting vision of post-'60s malaise whose narrator somehow retains his humor, compassion, and even optimism in the wake...


A grown-up child of the 1960s looks back in anger, seasoned with retroactive awe, at his mercurial father, a legendary activist and counterculture icon.

It will be all but impossible for readers of a certain age to wander far into this elegiac monologue about family upheaval, political tumult, and ruined hopes without thinking of Yippie co-founder Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989), who challenged the political establishment in the '60s with anarchic humor, incendiary rhetoric, and heedless mischief. Most (if not quite all) of the things that happen in this novel to the irrepressible Lenny Snyder, from his glory days as street-level activist and counterculture superstar to his early-1970s period on the run from drug-related criminal charges, happened in real life to Hoffman. Playwright Furst, who displayed wit and empathy dealing with youthful protagonists in Short People (2003) and The Sabotage Café (2007), filters Lenny’s life through the childhood reminiscences of his grown-up son, Fred, short for “Freedom,” who was literally conceived by Lenny and his wife, Suzy, on the grounds of Central Park's Sheep Meadow minutes after they were married in front of “four thousand witnesses tripping on acid and a photographer from the Associated Press.” At first, Fred, along with everybody in Lenny’s orbit, is enthralled with his dad’s “cracked-whip cackle,” rapid-fire patter, and physical courage. But the older Fred gets, the more bewildered he is by Lenny’s mood swings and the verbal abuse and offhand neglect he visits upon those closest to him, whether it’s Fred’s mother, the novel’s most heartbreaking character, or folk singer Phil Ochs, who’s a very close second as he always shows up to help, despite his estrangement from Lenny and his own physical and psychological decline, wherever Suzy and Fred are struggling to live after Lenny’s deep dive into the underground. Other real-life characters come into view, including Allen Ginsberg, William Kunstler, and Jerry Rubin, though Rubin's thinly disguised persona appears under the name Sy Neuman. But what raises this book far above being a roman à clef are the vivid scenes of Fred trying to have a normal childhood in gray, grimy Nixon-era New York City and of him and his mother finding solace with each other as they watch Lenny drift away from them, literally and figuratively.

A haunting vision of post-'60s malaise whose narrator somehow retains his humor, compassion, and even optimism in the wake of the most crushing disillusionment.

Pub Date: April 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-307-27114-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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