Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Sixties

Bill Zimmerman, Doubleday, $26.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-385-53348-5
Vietnam-era peace activism is as adventurous as going to war in this exhilarating memoir. Zimmerman recounts the radicalization via beatnikism, the civil rights movement, and antiwar protests that led him in 1969 to renounce a promising psychology professorship (he feared his research might somehow be bent to evil purposes by the military-industrial complex) and become a full-time antiwar activist. The switch put him in harness with Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, and Jane Fonda and gave free rein to his "weakness for audacious ideas": he smuggled penicillin to the North Vietnamese, filmed bomb damage in Hanoi, and, in a hair-raising set piece, air-dropped food to American Indian Movement insurrectionists at the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee. Zimmerman's narrative is more focused on politics than is the typical counterculture memoir. It's also more about acting than thinking. Zimmerman has a knack for staging demonstrations and propaganda coups, which he transfers from the politics of confrontation to the politics of manipulation when he becomes a campaign consultant, but his antiestablishment ideology remains confused, emotional, and never very reflective—even in retrospect—about the Indochina conflict. Still, his is a vivid evocation of the romanticism and extraordinary shifts in consciousness that the 1960s unleashed. Photos. (Apr. 26)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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