ABBIE HOFFMAN: American Rebel by Marry Jezer

ABBIE HOFFMAN: American Rebel

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A thoughtful, solidly researched biography of the wildly creative and iconoclastic yippie, portraying Hoffman as a fresh force in American political culture--and as a man ultimately sabotaged by bipolar disorder (manic-depression), which drove him to extremes and probably led to his suicide. In 1988, Jezer (the children's book Rachel Carson, 1978) ran into Hoffman in an airport. A veteran activist and countercultural journalist who'd known the famed radical from the early hippie days on the Lower East Side until the violent days on the streets of Chicago in 1968, Jezer embraced Hoffman and listened with growing unease as the time-battered yippie ranted on and on about how great everything was going. Hoffman would be dead the next year. From this almost Dostoyevskian image of a radical out of balance, consumed by his own raging misplaced energy (in this case, the hypomanic phase of bipolar disorder), Jezer traces Hoffman's early influences. From the time he was a middle-class Jewish teenager in Worcester, Mass., Hoffman loved to play the rebel street-fighting man. It was the famous humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow, his professor at Brandeis, however, who inspired Hoffman to conceive of political protest as a positive expression, a means of self-actualization. In the ""Yippie!"" movement, founded with Jerry Rubin, Hoffman sought to fuse the creativity and individualism of the counterculture with the righteous spirit of the antiwar movement. Here, Hoffman appears as his own best creation--half Lenny Bruce, half political shaman, throwing cash off the balcony of the New York Stock Exchange, trying to levitate the Pentagon, proclaiming himself a member of the ""Woodstock Nation,"" not a place but a beautiful, free state of mind. Hoffman--and a whole doomed, inspired era--emerges vividly in this cleareyed, richly detailed work.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
Page count: 325pp
Publisher: Rutgers Univ. Press