Rich in yippie/hippie goodness, a scrapbooklike biography of the agitator and gadfly who went from the barricades to Wall Street—and ticked everybody off at every point along the way.
Mention the word “yippie” to a person of a certain age, and the first person who comes to mind will most likely be Abbie Hoffman. That’s not quite fair, writes music and pop-culture journalist Thomas (Listen, Whitey!: The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975, 2012, etc.): “Abbie was a fan of Jerry before Jerry even knew Abbie existed.” Active in leftist politics since the early 1960s, Rubin (1938-1994) was a Zelig of dissent, everywhere at once, influential to everyone he met—including soon-to-be-former Beatle John Lennon and a re-emerging Bob Dylan. Rubin was also one of the Chicago Eight, a guy with an FBI file a foot thick, under suspicion for every sort of mayhem, including a presumed threat to lace the water supply of the Windy City with enough LSD to send every Chicagoan on an intergalactic trip. (Here, Thomas helpfully fact-checks: “it would take five tons of acid to effectively contaminate the water supply,” showing just how outlandish the government’s investigations could get back in the day.) As the author writes, sardonically, Rubin was so controversial that his prep school didn’t invite him back for the 25th anniversary—but enshrined him as one of the class heroes at the 50th, by which time he had come back from living underground and become an investment banker, earning the enmity of many erstwhile comrades. Things did not end well for Rubin, author of the famed take-it-to-the-man countercultural manifesto Do It! Thomas’s oversized, overstuffed book, studded with photos and news clippings, charts that unlikely trajectory, noting, sympathetically, that “no matter who Jerry was at any given moment…it was never a put-on.”
An eye-opener for those who remember the ’60s; for everyone else, a welcome introduction to that tumultuous time as illustrated through one of its most memorable personalities.