cover image Abbie Hoffman, American Rebel: American Rebel

Abbie Hoffman, American Rebel: American Rebel

Marty Jezer. Rutgers University Press, $40 (345pp) ISBN 978-0-8135-1850-3

This critical, comprehensive biography of the late radical Abbie Hoffman surveys in detail the politics, philosophies and struggles of the antiwar movement and, to a lesser extent, civil rights, feminism and environmentalism. Even though Jezer ( The Dark Ages: Life in the United States, 1945-1960 ) clearly respects Hoffman's ability to mobilize dissenters, he does not shirk from challenging Hoffman's attention-getting tactics, often perceived as clownish or macho. Jezer contends that the Jewish Hoffman's upbringing in conservative, largely non-Jewish, working-class Worcester, Mass., taught him to accept people of varied backgrounds and contributed to his energetic support of civil rights. His youth also led him to adopt a ``tough hood'' stance that he never abandoned, and that did not allow him to fully practice nonviolence. Hoffman's formative education in radicalism at Brandeis and Berkeley, his support of antiwar political candidates and his founding of the politicized Yippie movement on Manhattan's Lower East Side are discussed. Anecdotal accounts of demonstrations are here in abundance; much attention is given to ``guerrilla theater,'' police brutality and Hoffman's problems with the law on a cocaine-dealing charge. Little is made of his life outside the political arena, but the manic depression that led him to commit suicide in 1989, at age 53, is shown to have been an ever-present, worsening condition. Photos. (Aug.)