For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman

Jonah Raskin, Author, Eric Foner, Foreword by
Jonah Raskin, Author, Eric Foner, Foreword by University of California Press $35 (315p) ISBN 978-0-520-20575-8
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 315 pages - 978-0-520-21379-1
Ebook - 362 pages - 978-0-520-92104-7
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A self-proclaimed ""cultural revolutionary,"" iconoclast Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) used speeches, performance art, guerrilla theater, books (Revolution for the Hell of It, Steal This Book, Woodstock Nation) and witty media manipulation to stir the countercultural soup of the 1960s. This vibrant biography captures his anarchic antics as it chronicles the turbulence of that decade. Communications professor Raskin (My Search for B. Traven), who knew Hoffman for 20 years, sees his life as ""a fabulous story that blurs the line between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy, autobiography and mythology."" He maps Hoffman's journey from a Worcester, Mass., childhood to Brandeis, Berkeley and New York, detailing his civil rights/antiwar activities, the 1968 confrontations between Yippies and the Chicago police at the Democratic Convention, Woodstock (which Hoffman called ""the first attempt to land a man on the earth"") and the chaotic Chicago Conspiracy Trial. In love with his own media reflection, Hoffman entered the 1970s with ""godlike invincibility."" Not long after his 1973 bust for cocaine smuggling, he became an underground fugitive (as ""Barry Freed""), resurfacing in the 1980s on college campuses before his final descent into manic-depressive anguish and suicide. Raskin interviewed more than 200 friends and family members, jigsawing together material from court records, FBI files and yellowing radical newspapers to present this portrait of a prankster who remains the ""quintessential spirit of the era."" Photos. (Jan.)
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