cover image Between Panic & Desire

Between Panic & Desire

Dinty W. Moore, . . Univ. of Nebraska, $24.95 (140pp) ISBN 978-0-8032-1149-0

In this “unconventional, nonsequential, generational autobiography, AKA cultural memoir,” Moore, a professor of English at Ohio University, describes growing up as a child of the 1950s. “Panic” characterized his youth, as he watched “the symbols of safety and security” on television—Leave It to Beaver , Father Knows Best —while his real world fell apart. His mother had left his often-inebriated father, but couldn’t handle raising the children herself. “Paranoia” was the theme of his teen years, as JFK and King were assassinated; the draft and the Vietnam War drove young men to extremes; and characters like Charlie Manson, Squeaky Fromme, Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley Jr. all took aim at public figures. Moore’s own paranoia was only heightened by using LSD and smoking dope while tooling around in his VW Beetle. Miraculously, “desire began to overtake panic”; he discovered a passion for writing, which has focused him ever since. Moore lays all this out in a series of free-form, almost playful essays; only there’s something serious here, too, as he realizes our history seems to repeat itself: the Patriot Act sounds like 1984 and Iraq feels like Vietnam all over again. In the end, Moore (The Accidental Buddhist ) takes readers on a quirky, entertaining joyride. (Mar.)