THE MAN WITH A STEEL GUITAR: A Portrait of Ambition, Desperation, and Crime by Norman Greenberg

THE MAN WITH A STEEL GUITAR: A Portrait of Ambition, Desperation, and Crime

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Sociologist Greenberg (Univ. of New Hampshire) visited the New Hampshire State Prison and came away with 50 hours of tape-recorded conversation with prisoner Warren Hart (a pseudonym). These he edited and arranged into Hart's first-person account of his own life. Born in New Hampshire in 1934 to alcoholic, sometimes violent parents who ""loved music,"" Hart speaks of having ""a real happy childhood"" before boggling on Ivanhoe and dropping out of high school to take to the road with his buddies and his steel guitar. Down and out in California at 19, he gets religion, an incompetent teenaged wife, and eventually three children (one of whom later dies, a battered child, at the hands of his wife's boyfriend). Ambitious, he wanders into music, has some success--and acquires a new ""wife""--on the fringes of the Nashville scene, but seems always to come up a day late and a dollar short. Back in New Hampshire as a Mormon convert with a third ""wife"" and more kids, he takes up armed robbery to get the money he can never seem to earn. His last job is aimed at financing a Bermuda vacation for the family; instead, he goes to prison. Hart himself makes little sense of this willy-nilly life dedicated to God and the American success/happy-family dream, and thwarted at every turn. (""This country's run like a damn crap game. The house has got all the money and there's no way you're gonna win."") Greenberg declines comment, leaving the reader to figure out what makes a loser a loser. An interesting document, especially between the lines.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Univ. Press of New England