CAMPUS WARS – Kenneth J. Heineman

This excellent history tells of students protests, anti-war activities and divisive politics from 1963-1972 at four large public universities: Michigan State, Kent State, State University of New York at Buffalo and Penn State. The story of each institution during the Sixties is told effectively and efficiently. The book could be longer; it could be much longer. The stories at those Universities become mingled with references to events at other universities as issues become national. (Kent State killings. What was said to the family of Allison Krause after her death was as deplorable then as it is today.)

The author, Heineman, dismisses the image that anti-war protests and riots in Berkeley and on the East Coast were the most significant demonstrations against the Vietnam War. The big-named University palaces were safeguarded against the very violent tendencies and emotions at Mid-West universities, the cauldron for anti-war protests. Heineman points out further that Kent State had and resolved an issue of Free Speech in 1963 in discussions with an enlightened university administration which had read the Constitution. That was a year before Berkeley’s Free Speech movement confronted an entrenched, implacable adminstration. Heineman points out also that Kent State held the first Vietnam war symposium (teach-in) in 1964, again a year before one was held in Berkeley.

Heineman notes efforts of the FBI to get a handle on the anti-war, draft resisting protests. There was no informer, no grand conspirator and no agent provocateur leading students at the Universities onto violent paths. Instead, law enforcement would supply drugs and next arrest the possessor with drug possession. Law enforcement would interfere with banking and would make sure telephone bills were paid on time: Late: no telephone service. Late in the Sixties and early Seventies, the FBI purportedly put agents in the field posing as students. And who knew: Bill Ayers was treated carefully because his family was very wealthy.

Advertisements

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

Poor entertainment, fantasy history, no character is credible, directed by Robert Redford.

This movie is set in the present day. Since there are big stars in the film it is easier to refer to the stars rather than the names of the characters each portrays.

Susan Sarandon is arrested for a murder she committed during a bank robbery while she was with the Weathermen in the early 1970s. I note that there seemed many surveillance cameras in the bank during the robber and murder, suitable for today but the 1970s? Scruffy aging looking guy comes up to Robert Redford, playing an attorney in the movie. He tells Robert, represent Susan. Robert refers the case to a Philadelphia lawyer.

It turns out that Robert is connected to Susan. He was a Weatherman, who knew all the bank robbers, who dropped out of the movement and who reentered society as an attorney in New York in 1979. Robert goes on the run and visits former Weatherman friends who help him; some of them get arrested for present and past transgressions. The FBI (Terrance Howard, Anna Kinrick) is really cleaning up. Robert wants to find a Weathergirl, now woman, Julie Christie who can testify he was not in the bank and didn’t shoot anyone. Julie was in the bank and responsible. 

This trite story never should have become a movie. A far superior movie about radicals trying to life a normal life underground and having to flee is Running on Empty (Judd Hirsch, Christine Lahti). Behaviors and development of fugitive Weathermen are absent in this movie. It becomes a chase movie with no cars following one another.

The characters – Susan, Julie and Robert – are sell outs. They can still talk revolution, anarchy and radicalism, but they enjoy the good, prosperous life. The dialogue about the purity of the good old days is phony and false. All the comrades who Robert mets cherish their current lives; they flourish in American society, except for the scruffy looking guy at the beginning. The audience never sees him again; the FBI never catches up with him.

The movie has the major premise that the Weathermen split from SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) because they wanted to the bring the Vietnam War home, fight violence with violence. This is complete crap, a falsehood. The Weathermen separated from SDS for personal reasons: The Weathermen were megalomaniacs, mentally ill sociopaths and psychopaths willing to use any tactics but avoid jeopardy to themselves.(Praise for Charles Manson) They learned their social and political skills in junior high school and never progressed from there. After the split, SDS and other radicals said about the WeatherVain, “You don’t need to be a Weatherman to know who the assholes are.” Jane Alpert’s Growing Up Underground, Morrow, 1981, is an excellent book about those lives and those people. The SDS and Weatherman split is recounted in many books, most notably Todd Gitlin, The Sixties, Bantam, 1989.

Many other sources from time to time have chapters and passages telling of the persons within the Weatherman and similarly violent groups. A fair representation of the personalities (without the seedy, lustrous life) is found in Katherine, with Sissy Spacek. It is known and occasionally mentioned in Robert’s movie that the Weathermen could not agree among themselves and were unwilling to agree with anyone else. The Weathermen were individuals who Lenin described in What Needs to Be Done: “Let them call themselves Social Democrats to their heart’s content. I am not a child to get excited over a label.” Lenin himself was caught up in those pettinesses. Purportedly near death Lenin was arguing with Julius Martov, (Russian revolutionary Social Democrat living outside the Soviet Union) carrying on a disagreement of 10 or 20 years before. Lenin was for for Leninism; Martov inclined to leftist social democracy.

Problems in the late Sixties, cooking and typing were shitwork. Life was a bitch! The Weathermen had many things to argue over: money, who would do the laundry, who would wash the dishes, why they were always eating hippie food (vegetables), whether bugs in the bathroom ought to be killed, who would kill and skin the pet bunny to eat for that night’s dinner (Don’t add squirrel to the stew!), whether love meant cleaning the toilet after someone else vomited into it and mostly hit the bowl, who would do what in bed, or on the kitchen table, in the car with whom and with which species and how many people could watch and who could listen to the narration and who could talk without being interrupted.  It was a time for a lot of back to nature stuff.

It was a time when rape was described as “an attack with a friendly weapon.” In 1970 for a journalism class I reported on crime on the UC Berkeley campus and spoke with a supervisor of the UC Police Department. About rape he advised, “The woman should not resist. She ought to lay back and enjoy it.” It was a time when No did not mean No. No meant, yes, maybe, go ahead slowly. Berkeley communes and houses had free sex in the late Sixties; there are articles. Yet women found the arrangements very unsatisfactory. It is no wonder that the next “political” move was to Women’s Liberation and to Feminism.

The Weathermen were Neanderthals. They rejected monogamy and personal relationships. They adopted a new way written up by a German neanderthal, Frederick Engels who wrote that monogamy was akin to owning private property and the personal relationships were anti-socialist. All that would change under socialism. Society would become more friendly to males, as Bill Clinton aptly demonstrated. (See Engel, “The Origins of the Family: Private Property and the States.” From Feminism to Liberation, Altbach, Edit, Hoshino, Ed., Cambridge, Schenkman Publishing Co, 1971, p. 47-52 including smashing monogamy cartoon.)

Robert, actor and director, plays an attorney with a child. I know hundreds of attorneys. Robert’s first bit of dialogue involves land use and taking title to private property under the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. Ten minutes later Robert is identified as a “public interest” lawyer; later he has a “private practice.” Robert has nice offices. Everything is modern and upscale around his assistant with a desk top computer. On Robert’s desk no stacks of files clutter the desk; there is no laptop; there seemed to be no notepads; there were no piles of messages; the phone seemed inconspicuous. There are a few diplomas on the walls and a few ” good work,” plaques. There are no photographs of his daughter or Robert’s dead wife. There is a set of Martindale & Hubbel behind Robert – Martindale is seven volumes with listings of attorneys by community and state. Inside is a brief description of law, but they are not books of law, certainly not for a “public interest” lawyer. 

PARAGRAPH A. In his office Reporter (Stupido) asks Robert whether he will represent (defend) Susan. No brainer. Robert is a “public interest” lawyer, not a criminal defense lawyer trying to handle a difficult case, murder in the 1970s. Robert would commit legal malpractice if he tried to defend Susan. His defense would result in an automatic reversal of any guilty verdict based upon inadequate representation of counsel. Robert himself would be disciplined by his state bar – attorneys get disbarred for taking cases they cannot handle. Finally, this whole interview is nonsensical, as the audience learns later. Robert is a member of the bar of New York; Susan was arrested in Vermont. Neither New York nor Vermont are where the bank robbery occurred. (Michigan) Trial will be in Michigan. Robert presumably is not licensed to practice in Michigan; he would have to jump through hoops to get permission to represent Susan there.

Susan is a sell out. She is represented by the Philadelphia attorney Robert recommends. She has the bucks because we all know Philly attorneys work cheap. Robert is an idiot. He’s supposed to be underground, avoiding publicity. But he’s a “public interest” lawyer, getting “good work” plaques, gallivanting around New York state helping on this cause or that. When he learns Susan is in trouble, he recommends a lawyer and jabbers with Stupido rather than say, I know nothing about it.

The young reporter, Stupido, approaches Robert. He wants to know why Robert won’t defend Susan. Being a reporter he knows everything that is in PARAGRAPH A. Obviously, this reporter would go to a podiatrist when a urologist is needed. But to carry the movie along, Robert is very accommodating; he lets Stupido make a complete moron of himself. At the end of the interview Robert says too much: “Thirty years ago the movement could have used a smart guy like you…”

I’m addressing Robert, the director, now. 2 + 2 = 4. The movie is set in the present day. The crimes leading to Susan’s arrest happened in the early seventies, meaning 42-44 years ago. SDS and the Weathermen split in 1968 after the Columbia University occupation in May 1968. [Most women split from SDS in the summer of 1967 after a brute told Shulamith Firestone, approaching the microphone with a feminist socialist agenda, “Go away little girl. We’re talking about important matters.”] Robert should know that when he and Paul Newman were making Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was the time when the Weatherman were plotting their moves – the Days of Rage in Chicago (fall 1969) and blowing themselves up in New York City (March 1970.) It was not 30 years ago. It was 45 years ago. Robert, the director and the actor playing a character, should also know that Robert came from the Underground to become an attorney 30 years ago – that was 10 -12 years after the bank robbery.

Having lost credibility as an arithmetic student, Robert the attorney loses all credibility as a counselor to trust when he says Stupido is a “smart guy.” This is a very inept reporter who looks like he’s lost 20 IQ points by smoking too much dope. (He’s jittery and defensive) What Robert did not say is the truth: The Weathermen were dolts and dullards. Kirkpatrick Sales in SDS reports that Weatherman leaders, Mark Rudd and Bill Aryes (Obama’s friend), bragged in meetings that neither of them had read a book for more than a year. The actor playing Stupido looks like he didn’t read the script and certainly he did not comprehend it.

The big plot twist yielded no suspense and destroyed any connect with reality: Robert is underground himself. He has the new identify as a lawyer since 1979, ten years after all the criminal acts happened. Robert is a man wanted by the pigs for murder in the Michigan robbery.

The first fallacy of the movie cannot be swallowed by the most gullible person in the audience: When one person of a dormant underground cell is found and arrested, the other members of the cell or network do not contact one another. They do not contact old friends. They are prepared to go on the lam – get cash, get disguises, have a car ready. But not Robert. He’s Robert Redford forever. Robert runs from one former Weatherman to another, endearing them to him – some get arrested. Of course, they whole point of going underground is to disappear and not see anyone who may know you. Indeed in the movie for a while, the FBI does not cancel Robert’s credit cards and ATM machine card, so they can learn where he’s going. Yet Robert always seems to have food, transportation and comfort. I inferred he was using his cards, but the FBI was slow – to keep the movie going. Anyone underground fleeing the cops would know, use no electronic devises, have no electronic transactions to allow the cops to know where you are use burn phones.

The reason Robert is on the lam is to find Julie Christie. Julie Weathergirl is still full of anarchist/radical crap. What she says is true. Obama’s Wall Street friends are looting the country. She makes her money trafficking drugs.

Julie runs to Robert. She knows about the recent arrests because the press broadcasts everything. It’s magnetism and magic to go, see Robert whom she hasn’t seen for 30 years, [45 years], [12 years], [last week?]. She wonders what the audience wonders: Why am I going? Nothing good will come of it because she knows Robert wants her to turn herself in – implicate herself and tell the cops that Robert was not in the bank during the robbery/murder. Of course Susan who is already arrested could testify to the same facts, but no one ever expects Susan to tell the truth. She’s a sell out.

Robert and Julie meet in the cabin, cold outside but not warm inside. Robert left his Viagra in New York, so Julie is disappointed. Again, why did Julie drive from California to Michigan? [For a high school reunion among the losers?] In their cabin scene it is clear that Robert was involved in the planning of the bank robbery; he just didn’t make it to the bank. If Julie admitted guilt, she would also tell about the planning. That makes Robert guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and murder. This legal point makes the whole movie fake, phony and fraudulent. Robert is going to prison if anyone talks. Yet Robert runs around contacting people who can talk about him and the bank. Robert is not a very good lawyer. He’s dense; he should be disbarred.

Julie says she will not turn herself in. It’s the first sensible action by anyone in the movie. She leaves Robert in the cabin and runs to a pier, to a boat. She motor and sails away to the end of her life. But she’s troubled. Robert is going to prison for a robbery/murder he helped plan but wasn’t directly involved in. It is horrible. Robert Redford in the hoosegow. Watching Brubaker was hard enough. Julie turns the boat around: VOICE OVER RADIO BROADCAST: Julie turned herself in. Robert is free. It’s a sad ending. I hoped Julie would have the smarts to save Robert’s daughter from a lifetime of a further life with Robert, rather than with Chris Cooper, her uncle, openly established, less criminal and closer to her age.

Equally preposterous are the role of Stupido and the FBI. Stupido follows a very simple trail to wind up at the cabin after Julie leaves. REMEMBER the Weathermen are fugitives who want to be underground and untraceable – no public records, no trail of any kind, no revisiting of old haunts. Yet, Stupido easily learns much about Robert and his Weatherman activities and buddies and follows, whereas the FBI are steps behind. The Bureau also loses the ability to follow Robert through his credit cards. 

Everything Stupido does and the FBI doesn’t is a plot contrivance.

HISTORY AND FICTION

bitch. cover

When I went to write Bitch. (iBookstore, michael ulin edwards), I was determined to make it autobiographical. I learned after three major drafts and a long process of 20 years, that autobiography was impossible. It would make a bad book. Some of the reasons can be found in Twentieth Century Journey, William L Shirer, vol. i, Preface; Autobiography of Mark Twain, U.C. Press, Berkeley, 2011, vol. 1, on writing memoirs/autobiography.

I was motivated to write the life and times of Berkeley, 1968-1973. While there I had forces coming at me. I determined they would best be represented by FIVE major characters, plus subsidiary characters folded into the stories of the FIVE. At that point the book could not be autobiographical; it could not be biographical. It could be history. Recount events as truthfully and accurately as I could, but the characters had to be representations. [Readers have commented that they know these characters.]

As much as I ran from place to place in Berkeley, observing and stuffing everything into my memory (which is not entirely why I almost flunked out my first year – I was also taking the wrong classes and my perspective on learning was horribly distorted), I could not tell the story of Berkeley with one character being everywhere at once: Peoples Park Riot Day, May 15, 1969 – in class on the north side of campus; in the riot itself; at the swimming pools in Strawberry Canyon; wandering around Dwinelle Hall. The FIVE characters and others were useful to convey what had to be said.

It is also impossible for a individual to tell his story when hormones, urges, the environment, economics are exerting influences affecting the person. What is the order? What is the priority? What is important? Those day to day, sometimes hour to hour or minute to minute considerations which may or do change affected human being senses – hear, see, smell, feel, taste – will shift the ground and upend any story.

If the reaction to life under those circumstances is the same, that makes for a dull human being. If the reaction to life under those circumstances whipsaws the human being into incapacity, he becomes confused and worthless. If the reaction causes the human being to take the brunt of it and react intelligently, predictably or making-do, that is the easier story to tell.

IMG

In 200,000 words I came up with the FIVE characters, two guys and three women, living and telling their lives (some aspects of my life) in Berkeley from September 1968 through the summer of 1973. They lived through riots, demonstrations, classes, drugs, life, city and academic events and state and national actions, all told within this novel. [There are 450 notes and a bibliography.]

Also, I could not tell my own story for a personal reason. Who could be truthful about being psychological creepy and sociology awkward then, (probably eccentric today) in a terrifying place. That doesn’t describe the discomfort, the violence and the shock of watching crap on the streets being played out and the acceptance of it by everyone in Berkeley. About 20 years ago I talked to someone I knew as a student. He tried to fit in and spoke the language as a student. His evaluation of those times upon meeting him again was reduced to one word: “Strange.” He didn’t want to talk about what he thought or was doing as a student, which was likely “creepy” and “weird.”

It seemed I was the only person who considered everything going on was strange, weird and ill for society. I may have been suited for a college campus in the 1920s, but I was stuck at Berkeley. I did not want to be a statistic and a loser: Someone told me when I entered that the average stay of a student at Berkeley was four quarters. (The University is much more mellow today which is why it is not a place of excellence.)

While a student at Berkeley, I didn’t like and actually detested loud music, drugs, and the recklessness of students, their lives a step from the street. Everything seemed reenforced by the citizens of Berkeley. Condemning this gross, communal lifestyle is a theme of Bitch.. Indeed, I dislike any communal styles, community standards, something my generation embraced and never let go of, and something which has been passed onto to their children and grandchildren: The collective.

We are not raising children today to be individuals, to think on their own. They are accepting, too much of collective action, group-think, the so-called common good. They have been taught, It Takes a Village – Collective actions are the bases of all advancement. Those are  wet dreams rolling from the Left of the Sixties and from Radical Feminism. (See Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex.)

Finally, I did not want to be like any of the FIVE. I put a lot of distance between myself and Berkeley. Not in the novel is: at the end of my Berkeley studies, I wanted to be a composer, but I had injured my left hand and couldn’t play the piano. I was lost to the activities I was prepared for. Law school intervened, but within ten years I had turned to writing.

This post is the second using the cover and the diagram (outline) that I have made. The subject is different because the text differs.

Bitch. – Third Edition

IMG_0002-1

The purpose of my novel, Bitch., a period not a dot, a verb not a noun, puts the reader on the ground as a student at the University of California at Berkeley in September 1968 and carries through June 1973. It is 200,000 words.

There are loads of details – historical, fictional, contrived. First Edition, First printing was in 2000 – footnotes, bibliography, index and lexicon (words of the Sixties plus sources) e.g. “bummers” came from neither the Hells Angels nor the hippies. In 1864 the scavengers of Sherman’s Army on the March to the Sea through Georgia were known as bummers.

First Edtion, Second Printing is a reediting of the First Printing. Corrected are typos, less “majestically lawless.” In the First Printing one page has one word on it. The Second Printing has fewer obstacles to get to the purpose of the novel than the First Printing.

Before writing and during writing I did extensive research. I was dismayed when bookstores around the University closed in Berkeley: Seven in ten years. Some libraries closed and deprived me of sources. The Undergraduate Library was remodeled and its collection was reduced at least 50 percent. When I arrived to write, the campus had not changed much. I was able to write from memory, research and setting as they had been for decades.

The primary change between the First Printing and the Second was to the name of a character. I was using a pseudonym, Karl Rauh. In German “rauh” means abrupt, rude, sharp, and there was nothing about my writing that was polite, gentle or soft. Bitch. retains the edge of the attack. But I had named a character in the story, Karl Rauh, and a reader who believed she knew characters in the book, observed there was a problem with voices: author/character. I considered that point and took the quickest remedy: I changed the character’s name.

After the Second Printing was published, I was in the City of Berkeley Library Book Store. Someone had brought in loads of boxes filled with Sociology from the Sixties and Seventies. I realized I had a large source of books I had not seen. I bought and began reading, and more out of bookstores and from libraries, perhaps 1000 books. I had 50-100 pages of notes and additions to the text of Bitch.. For instance a little item: I met a woman who would only date on a Dutch treat basis. In a source I found a teenage girl who would only go Dutch treat because she didn’t like the feeling of being “rented” for the evening. That source is end-noted in the Third Edition.

Unprompted by me in 2009 the publisher of the Second Printing relinquished all rights to Bitch.. I was unhappy with the Second Printing because of the errors and its incomplete research and the many references I had overlooked and now made. Scanning the book into word processing would be a complete disservice to me as a writer and to the text which wasn’t perfect. The idea of retyping a manuscript of that length raises NOT the question, Do I want to read this again? Instead, the question becomes, Do I want to type this again? There were words, sentences and paragraphs to insert or move someplace else. Text to add and stuff to delete, and it was all possible because I read the text at 15-20 words a minute, my typing speed. Along the way I was able to reenter the book into my memory, and was able to play with it. I rounded out characters; I made paragraphs complete thoughts; I made the story full, inserting another 10-15,000 words. I added to endnote texts, and I added 90 note references.

[When one is writing about the Sixties and early Seventies, it is good to get facts, thoughts and impressions correct. Many memoirs and recountings are so highly edited to make the representations of those texts farcical and those texts wholly dishonest. Inserting the notes to sources and newspapers of those times at least tell the facts as they occurred. It is difficult for a once famous “personage” of those times to support his fantasies as he likes to remember them today and not as they happened. Many of those people like to write about their feelings. Hence the endnotes and the bibliography in Bitch..]

Under my name, michael ulin edwards, [I jettisoned the pseudonym],I received a copyright for the Third Edition of Bitch., iBookstore. It is the ghost edition. There are no graphics. There is an improved lexicon and bibliography but no index. Epublishing would not support the index. Unfortunately, there is no search function in Epublishing.

Editing a manuscript I believed once perfect was daunting and annoying, and in the end I was grateful. The text needed a sever reading. I learned how to do that. It is a much different mindset than writing, and different from proofreading. When a writer proofs, he accepts the text and makes small changes. But reediting – sentences, phrases, clauses, paragraphs – does not accept the text as it is. The mindset is to deconstruct. Reediting reinvents the text so words do their best work.

IMG

Just a note about writing Bitch.. The more words the more complicated the writing, the organization and the interactions and interface of stories, characters and settings. Before writing I determined there would be five major characters, the names are capitalized in each circle. One subsidiary character, “Ellen,” is mentioned. Not all the characters would have the same experiences, but like many young people during the Sixties and early Seventies, they had shared experiences. Those experiences were by direct participation or vicarious knowledge, because many occurrences during those years had a lot of fallout [unlike today where experiences tend to shut and tie-off]. Once I accepted this organization, the only diagram (“outline”) I made, the text was a matter of writing the stories of each character and how they mixed.

Always paramount was a driving theme found in Lee’s circle: Characters were looking for love in a loveless society.

TRUE BELIEVER: ATROCITY

TRUE BELIEVER by Kurt Andersen

Do not buy this book. Waste no time reading it.

Andersen has presented America with a gross self-promotion, and he flat out misrepresents that this book is about the 1960s. Author Andersen is a National Public Radio host, a New York personality and a contributor to The Daily Beast. When asked by that Internet website to compile a list of his favorite books about the Sixties, Andersen put his book as Number One.

True Believer story: Woman in her sixties is writing her memoirs. The first chapter tells of her current life (divorce, professional status, etc.) She says she saved every document about her life from birth certificate to date, but the text belies she did that or she knows what she is writing about. Because of a poorly contrived literary contrivance of this book, I’ll call this woman First Person Girl.

In Chapter One Andersen introduces First Person Girl who is writing her memoirs. The first chapter is first person. Almost every chapter for 250 pages is First Person Girl in her sixties, as a child or as a teenager, and she is always “I.” Flitting between the present day and the Sixties (and sometimes events in between the Sixties and present day) requires a reader with a very complete memory of those 60 years just to know the references. Andersen does not tell what any character is actually thinking and why she is next doing something or changing her mind. He presents no life, no character changes and no character development. The book is a recitation of unconnected events with First Person Girl among them or mentioning them, along with more current and past events. Andersen tries to connect the reader to references by making First Person Girl a James Bond fan. What Andersen accomplishes is making First Person Girl silly, supercilious and superficial.

After introducing First Person Girl in Chapter One, most novelists would drop into the life of the subject. NOPE. There are improbable conversations. A grandchild asks First Person Girl, tell about the hippies. Did you smoke marijuana?!

Of 428 pages of text about half is present day stuff, and the remainder about the Sixties and references to facts in between (Princess Diane’s death). When writing, Andersen opened a reference book of events by year and asked himself: What am I going to put on the page from which year? The Mall March, August 1963, Harry Belafonte wasn’t identified as being there, but the lesser known in 1963 Sidney Poitier was. Next in that chapter was the “first real conversation about the Negro question with a Negro,” the family’s cleaning woman.(page 102) Violet complains, gives impressions and tells aspirations of the Civil Rights Movement, but it conveys nothing. Violet is not a real person; she’s a token stuck in so five pages can be devoted to Civil Rights exposition. First Person Girl next summarizes Violet’s conversations over “hundreds of hours…over the previous decade.”(105) [Which decade and when did First Person Girl have the conversations? Violet dies at age 51 within a decade.] Nothing is learned from the bald recitation of facts and impressions in the contrived, counterfeit drivel. Readers have no insight into Violet’s life, the life and times of the Sixties in general or of the Civil Rights Movement broadly.

It finally became apparent that First Person Girl grew up, in the Midwest, likely Northern Illinois. There are a few lines about listening to the Cubs game but no mention of Ernie Banks. There is a reference of going to Milwaukee, but not to Milwaukee Braves games or seeing Hank Aaron. On page 111 I thought these people were Canadians – a reference is made to “Canadian sophistication.” I was mistaken.

The idle and frequent references to events in the Sixties have no order, no significance and no relevance. They don’t put the reader in the human lives of those times, and they don’t tell what Americans were thinking. While flitting between 2012 and the Sixties, Andersen mentions Le Bron James (305) but fails to mention New York kid, Lew Alcindor [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar], UCLA basketball [nine championships in eleven years] or Cassius Clay [Mohammad Ali]. If Andersen were interested in young forwards playing basketball in the Sixties, he might have mentioned Rick Berry or Julius Erving. NOPE. In an appeal to the modern crowd but conveying nothing, Anderson mentions Mark Zuckerberg (308). The name dropping adds nothing; it tells nothing. It is a waste of ink, paper and distracts from any story of the Sixties. Indeed, while relying heavily on cliches and name dropping, it is important to get everything right and imprudent, lazy and i!rresponsible to use slogans twice: “Hey, hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?” (187, 328)

What wasn’t mentioned about the Sixties? A good economy but not much about the World or even Vietnam. Sports wise omitted were the Boston Celtics, Wilt Chamberlain, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, the New York Mets and the Packers. Movies were mentioned but not Doctor Zhivago, The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, Joe or The Last Summer (excellent, brutal, cruel story about social pressure among teenagers). “The Smothers Brothers” TV show is mentioned but not Pat Paulson for President. There are no other presidential candidates in 1968 other than Nixon and Humphrey. There were no gays and lesbians in the Sixties. Andersen apparently was not part of any rioting; he mentions riots but not what it is like to be inside a riot. The April 1968 C!hicago riot is not mentioned.

The research for True Believer is poor. It reveals Andersen had his ears closed; his eyes shut; his mouth covered, his hands in mittens. He was a sheltered teenager who went to Harvard University in 1970 after that school had its campus student uprisings. A book was written and published within a year of those events; it tells of the low-key protests. The other excellent book from 1972 gives a decade’s events at Harvard: The Fall of the American University, Adam Ulam.

Approximately page 250 to page 370 First Person Girl, who has juvenile diabetes, fades. Andersen more or less slips into a third person story. First Person Girl goes to Radcliffe, so is an adjunct of Harvard. A Harvard-Radcliffe “cult” (Andersen’s word) forms, is secret, purportedly disciplined, supposedly motivated, presumably knowledgable, financially capable and with the means to change the world. They use artistic license from The Theater: Since everyone in the cult is highly educated, there are show-off references by cult members about other cult members – characters from Shakespeare’s plays like Mr. Indecisive of the cult, Hamlet. That is an idea for use in a movie, but it does not reflect any reality of cults or from any group of the Sixties. The Shakespeare references indicate Andersen’s abysmal failure to research any revolutionary or radical movement or group which was successful. He could have started by reading the writings of Harvard professor, Adam Ulam.

Cults exist through psychological and physical coercion and force, and emotional dependency. Add ideology and there is an political dimension. In the 1960s drugs were used to create submissive, compliant beings, following a Leader to Earth’s end. But drugs and diabetes? First Person Girl does drugs and gets by. Another cult tool was sex, especially with the Leader. Sex sealed relationships and secured devotion. First Person Girl had a boyfriend. I infer he was a Leader of some sort, so he had her exclusively. Anderson doesn’t tell his cult-sex-life, but no doubt Boyfriend was actively porking everything he could. Was there an emotional toll on First Person Girl?

It is difficult to determine which true beliefs anyone in the cult had because there seems no Leader, no herald, no Joshua. The cult decides to assassinate LBJ, President of USA. Because of this limited goal Andersen’s cult is mislabeled. It is closer to a cell. The cult plans, gets prepared, gets into place: LBJ gives his quitter speech on March 31, 1968, and everyone in the cult realizes the assassination should no longer be carried out. Members listen to a Bob Dylan song, and one or two cult members sing along.(336-337) That’s not much of a cult, a cell or any other type of group, except a bunch of spoiled, rich Ivy League Ivory Tower morons occupying this asshole story.

Andersen, though, does not give up. The story is wanting, but he wants a longer book. He drops in more events, and more names. Page 393 students of Harvard (I believe) chant: “Dare to struggle, dare to win, Charles Manson, live like him.” It is extremely doubtful this was chanted in the fall of 1968 or any other time in public. Charles Manson was completely unknown in 1968. The Tate-Labianca murders happened in August 1969. Manson and those murders were anathema to the New Left. When Bernadine Dohrn [name dropped along with Bill Aryes in True Believer, 110] praised the death of Sharon Tate, Leftists said about Dohrn, Aryes and their followers, “The Weather Vain:” “You don’t need to be a Weatherman to know who the assholes are.”

The next page, 394, Andersen bounces to March 1970 – townhouse in New York City explodes; it is a bomb making factory. He regresses to November 1969 with revelation of the massacre on My Lai, Vietnam. He rushes into the future to the killings at Kent State, May 4, 1970. This whipsawing is nonsensical, word wasting, page filing and reveals Andersen is not writing a novel but is listing events and is making up crap about each happening.

I looked for evidence of research. None. In ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Andersen writes condescendingly, “…there were things I needed to learn about…young women in the 1960s.” [Men have penises; women have vaginas.] “I am grateful to all the women I’ve known – in particular to those I know and love the best [names omitted to protect the unwary] for their specific suggestions and corrections, and for splendidly teaching me day in and day out how the other half lives.”

None of Andersen’s female sources appeared to be around during the Sixties, and Andersen read nothing: Not Betty Friedan, not Robin Morgan, not Valerie Solanas, nothing about SDS and the New Left and not Alice Echol’s excellent book, Dare to Be Bad. A defining moment of the women’s movements occurred at a New Left meeting during the summer of 1967. New Leftists were droning on about issues, agenda and dogma. Shulamith Firestone, a tiny, determined woman, got to the microphone with points she wanted raised and discussed. A guy dismissed her (paraphrased): Don’t bother us little girl. We’re talking about real issues.

From that time on, the New Left, radicals, revolutionaries and other groups had difficulty obtaining women. It was fatal to those causes because women were the oil that allowed the machines to function and keep relations civil. Women, who were conscious [not First Person Girl], were unwilling to be mothers to men their own age. They wanted to be women and adopt other roles as opportunities arose. There were arguments over this stance, and especially about no kitchen duty, no cooking duty, no housework, no typing. None of these female concerns were mentioned in Andersen’s cult or in True Believer. It is too bad because if the women he loved had informed Andersen, True Believer may not have been published.

What sort of research should Andersen have done? I cannot tell which sources are available today. When I wrote Bitch., a period not a dot, a verb not a noun (iBookstore, Michael Ulin Edwards), the Berkeley campus housed the one library with the collection of liberationist and feminist texts which had existed in Berkeley since 1970. I wrote the first draft of Bitch., and I returned to that library for research. It was gone. The books (about 10,000) had been moved.

Whereto? Berkeley was going through a spring cleaning trying to free space for new groups with new interests. Women’s issues were passé, especially the thoughts and imperfect expressions from the late Sixties and early Seventies. The books (and I suppose magazines, articles and pamphlets) went to the main library where they were culled. Not many went into the library collections; some went to other UC libraries. Many of the women’s books were mass market paperbacks, and those were put up for sale, a nickel a piece. If there were no buyers, the books were recycled. I paid five cents, found books in libraries, in used bookstores, in library bookstores and at garage and yard sales. I likely read 500 books and looked at another 500.

Reading True Believer, I have no inkling, no sense, no impression that Kurt Andersen researched any issue on any point he mentions: Hippies, Street People, the New Left, Harvard student protests, women, Vietnam, anti-war movement and marches, and liberation issues. He didn’t live among any of those people, so he lacks experience on that level. He may have vast experience with one issue: drugs. 

In True Believer an issue of writing arises. Any author, especially someone writing a memoir as a novel, has a voice separate and apart from the character in the novel. Mark Twain did it as well as can be done in Huckleberry Finn. In True Believer there is no indication that Andersen keeps himself separate from First Person Girl’s voice. Andersen never abandons the author’s voice. Indeed none of the characters have his or her own voice. An example:  

                     “As the Movement grew, and antiwar protests became regular bi-annual festivals of rage,

                   and we learned from the Seed, Chicago’s new underground paper, that Negro riots were

                   actually black rebellions, the adults grew less indulgent. I saw a poll showing that in the

                   last two years, Americans’ support for civil rights demonstrations – civil rights – had dropped

                   from 42 percent to 17 percent. Which meant push was coming to shove. Alex had mentioned 

                   McGeorge Bundy, President Johnson’s national security adviser, because I’d just written an

                   editorial for the school paper arguing that New Trier’s speaking invitations to him and the White

                   House press secretary should be withdrawn. ‘These two men,’ I wrote, ‘share responsibility

                   for the death’s of eight thousand American soldiers and the murder of untold thousands of

                   Vietnamese women and children. While freedom of speech is important, refusing to condone

                   needless death can be more important. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

                   once said, if words ‘create a clear and present danger [such] that they will bring around…

                   substantive evils,’ they should be prohibited.’ My mother called my article ‘extremely well

                   written.’ That was also what she’d said about my editorial in the fall approving the assassination

                   of South Africa’s apartheidist prime minister. But this time she said that my argument struck

                   her as ‘nutty as a fruitcake…’”

                   True Believer, p. 211-212.

Mamas are prone to undue, unwarranted praise. It’s good that this family cliche is in the text for a personal touch. This paragraph begins with the Movement (Leftist, anti-war, civil rights, Black – which one?). It races onto Negro city riots and Underground Newspapers. It mentions Americans ebbing support for civil rights. There’s push “coming to shove,” a cliche with references to nothing in the book and nothing during the Sixties or in the present day. There are invitations to Presidential aides, and how wrong those invitations are. Next is First Person Girl’s editorial, mentioning freedom of speech and Oliver Wendell Holmes. There is apartheid in South Africa and the assassination of a prime minister, the family reaction and the potential Generation Gap.

There is a lot going on in this paragraph, too much for a 16 year old girl(210). It’s 1965: First Person Girl graduates in 1967; she goes to college. If she is referring to anti-war protests, the first large scale “festivals of rage” happened nationally after she graduated from high school. The American death toll in Vietnam reached 8,000 in the Spring of 1966. Chicago had its first large scale race riots after she was at Radcliffe. And it is inconsistent for a James Bond fan in 1966 to be editorializing about the Vietnam when alternative lifestyles may not have been part of her life. Indeed, First Person Girl seems uncomfortable describing any alternative lifestyles as well as living within them. Her life at Radcliffe in the cult seems sterile. Take something as simple as hair. Did First Person Girl have long hair? Did she thread-braid it? Moreover, would First Person Girl think this paragraph should be in her memoirs, thus representing any part of her life? Certainly her mother wouldn’t say it was well-written. 

Instead it is the author’s voice the reader is hearing.  

EDIE – Jean Stein, George Plimpton

Edie (1982) tells its biography by interviews with friends, acquaintances and business associates of Edie Sedgwick. She is from a wealthy family with roots long into New England, although her parents – heretics, black sheep, apostates – moved to California where Edie was raised and where easy money was made in real estate. The East Coast contacts remained. George Plimpton’s parents were friends of the Sedgwicks.

As a biography Edie doesn’t tell much about the girl, young woman, woman. She has no voice except bits of dialogue from an Andy Warhol movie staring Edie, Ciao! Manhattan. Edie had no education, no writings, no letters, nothing other than being an earlier version of Paris Hilton, letting others document, dissect and distort her life. With friends and acquaintances like the ones interviewed, she was a throw away person. The book slaps together small talk from persons with no interest or with vague recollections of Edie: I was at this party or this place. Edie was standing in a corner with Andy Warhol. What do you remember Andy? I was there and Edie stood next to me because she was afraid and didn’t have anyone else to stand next to. It is no wonder that Edie died of a drug overdose at 28 years, the end chapters of the book. Next comes the philosophical imponderables: Did anyone see it coming? What happened? Was it suicide or accidental?

Edie is 428 pages long, and obviously published because big name people were involved. No one wanted to memorialize or tell about Edie except for a buck: Do a little genealogy about the family and make money from Edie’s existence. Nobody else will. What better tribute could be made to a girl who never made womanhood in her mind, who hung around and was tolerated because her family knew big people and they had contacts. Toss in a couple of topless photos and one fully nude (can’t see pores), and it’s a best seller. She won’t care. She wasn’t modest in life. She’s dead. Rest in peace. 

Edie is empty, crass and cheap. It has been identified as a book about the Sixties; it is not. Edie didn’t go up the river from where she was living in New York City to Woodstock! Edie is emblematic of the long time state of American publishing houses – slap together something to sensationalize to sell shi-. Promote names of undeserving, poor writers – they’re the bunch, our bunch that we can sell like laundry detergent.

JFK ASSASSINATION – I

FIFTY YEARS AGO sitting in a classroom in 1963 I got the news from my teacher. John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated.

LB JERK was the new President, and how bad was LB Jerk? Nine (9) year Vietnam War with 56,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of casualties, fighting for what?   Two more assassinations, a political opponent of The Jerk and a meddlesome troublemaker.    Trillions spend on well-intentioned, ineffective social programs that don’t work to this day despite 45 years of legislative tinkering.   Being president in 1968, a weak, unhealthy old man.

A joke, black humor, about the assassination fits the Sixties:  LBJ couldn’t go hunting this year. Why not? Oswald would give him back his gun.