cover image The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground

The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground

Ron Jacobs. Verso, $60 (216pp) ISBN 978-1-85984-861-6

Why privileged white college students felt compelled to bomb ROTC buildings, engage in ferocious street fights with police and spring LSD guru Timothy Leary from a California jail in 1970 would make for a fascinating take on how idealism went awry during the Vietnam War era. Unfortunately, this brief, illustrated history of the Weather Underground, a violent and clandestine splinter group of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), is an ideological tract. Clearly a sympathizer (his dedication is to casualties ""in the struggle against racism and imperial war""), Jacobs fails to capture the political passions of either that turbulent time or of its most compelling figures, such as Bernadine Dohrn, who issued revealing manifestos yet managed to elude federal authorities for 11 years until her surrender in 1981. ""To anyone who wasn't there,"" says Jacobs, ""it is difficult to comprehend the extent of the fear and suspicion in the New Left and counterculture during the late 1960s and mid-1970s."" Jacobs does a good job of detailing the Weather's sexual politics, its infighting, its intense self-criticism. But he could have tried harder to show the human face of madness. When three founding members immolate themselves with anti-personnel bombs they were making in a Greenwich Village townhouse, all he can muster is, ""Weather members around the nation were shocked when they heard news March 7 of an explosion in New York City."" The Weather Underground dealt a painful and puzzling blow to the body politic, unfortunately Jacobs doesn't get farther than the self-professed ideology. (Oct.)