REUNION: A Memoir by Tom Hayden
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REUNION: A Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The melancholy of unfulfilled dreams shadows this long, confessional, reflective autobiography by the chief architect of the 60's student revolt, now a Californian legislator. Hayden is 48 years old; yet the first 400 (of 500) pages of his memoir cover his life only up to age 30, in 1970. To Hayden, then, the 60's were no shameful spasm in the American body politic, but the fulcrum of his life, and, by extension, of our times: ""I miss the sixties and always will."" That's no wonder, since Hayden, as he chronicles in a loosely woven but emotionally intense narrative, was at the core of 60's political turbulence: as a left-drifting student at Ann Arbor; as a Civl Rights activist in Atlanta: as a charter SDS member, drafter of the Port Huron statement; as a community organizer in Newark. Then, the perfect focus for his idealistic rage: the Vietnam War. Two high-profile trips to Hanoi led to the fateful trip to Chicago in June of 1968 and Hayden's trial a year later as one of the ""Chicago 7."" Hayden re-creates this explosive decade with pride tempered by maturity, offering on unmatched insider's view of the New Left and its heroes (Bobby Scale, Abbie Hoffman, Mark Rudd, etc.) that's rueful hindsight (""Thinking that we could build a new world, we self-destructed in a decade"") still pained by a generation's losing its hopes to hatred (1980 found Hayden watching ultraradical Weathermen during the violent ""Days of Rage"": ""I felt the nausea of fear. Had I helped bring this on?""). And alongside the political catacylsms, personal ones: several fractured love relationships, a break with his father healed only in recent years. That familial healing, paralleled by his well-publicized, stable marriage to Jane Fonda, and recent encounters with many of his 60's mates, rounds out the book and inspires its title; yet, for Hayden, what he sees as the achievements of the 60's--ending segregation and the War, reforming schools, strengthening democracy--fell short of the final goal: ""Broken connections seem more common than reunion and resurrection in the human experience today. I hope that the ideals of the sixties. . .can have a second coming in our lifetime."" An important work for its vivid, firsthand reporting on an incredible time, and impressive for its candor. Finally, however, Hayden's memoir is his alone, and not that of his generation; in his steady political emphasis, he bypasses the tremendous cultural legacy of the 60's, and fails to generate the universality that hallmarks, for instance, Todd Gitlin's The Sixties (1987). Still, and for all its overkeening miring in the past, a major historical document.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1988
Publisher: Random House