IF MEN WERE ANGELS by Milton Mayer


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Four long, cutesy essays by a teacher of humanities who is also a roving editor of The Progressive. The first one spins laborious ironies on the tired theme of New Socialist Man's failure to appear in the Soviet bloc; Mayer seems to think this buttresses a Freudian-Adam Smithian view of man as egoist and consumer. In ""Man versus State"" Mayer circles around the need for law in society and the inevitable injustice the state inflicts on individuals. The essay on death deals with a subject better suited to Mayer's diffuse pontifications -- ""meditations (or vaporings)"" as he calls them. The essay on youth does make a point here and there -- ""Infantile grownups and broken-down kids, neither of them Beautiful"" -- but again one wants to say to Mayer what he says to the young: ""Straight-line reasoning -- out with it."" The book's complacent, pompous style with its ""yclepts"" and ""los"" would be forgivable if Mayer had anything important to say: but when his line of thought is identifiable, it's hackneyed -- we know that slogan-mongering exists in the Soviet bloc and that ""value-free"" education has helped warp the younger generation; not only does Mayer offer no answers, but he dilutes perceptions of the problems. A book for those who want the sheer physical exercise of reading with scant substance.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1971
Publisher: Atheneum