Subversive Book Club Review: The Lives of Abbie Hoffman

Full Title: Run, Run Run: The Lives of Abbie Hoffman
Author(s): Jack Hoffman and Daniel Simon
Year: 1994
Comments: Going into this book I already had a vast knowledge of Abbie Hoffman’s life, at least his life in the spotlight, but after reading this I gained a new perception of a man I have come to greatly admire over the years. Since, the main author is Abbie’s kid brother Jack, we are given an extrmely close, personal perspective of the events, lifestyle, and personality of Abbie Hoffman, the things only a brother could tell you. I have read and seen several works on Abbie (including his own autobiography, Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture– 1979), but this is the deepest and darkest. The first half of the book is a bit more optimistic, we see Abbie go from a fairly typical American boy with a privileged, suburban background to an aspiring, curious psychologist and ultimately to a committed, social activist. Initially, Abbie is involved in the Civil Rights Movement and is a bit more traditional at first, but as the times change Abbie changes and he soon becomes the iconic, inverted american flag wearing Yippie! we have come to love. The biography doesn’t go too far into the details of his specific activism, but mostly how it affects his life and the lives of his family members. For both, it is a dramatic effect, often severing relationships beyond repair. Jack Hoffman details how Abbie’s notoriety destroyed much of his family’s lives, both internally and externally- often ruining business deals and personal relationships. At the same time, he descibes Abbie’s complete devotion to his country and how he inspired millions. It appears that Abbie hit his peak of happiness and inspiration in the late 60s, because the second half of the book starts to chronicle Abbie’s emotional downfall. He is busted for cocaine possession (though it appears this was largely a set up) and soon flees to the underground. While on the run, he remains highly active politically and socially, even starting an entire environmental movement in the form of the Save The St. Lawrene River Movement. Despite, his admirable work, he begins to fall deeper and deeper into depression. Eventually, he is diagnosed with Manic Depression and this truly rips apart Abbie’s soul. Even after he emerges back into the public eye, he still struggeles to find happiness. Through all of these chaotic times, Abbie never quits the political struggle, with as much energy as ever. Alas, I must admit reading the last hundred or so pages of this book was really a drag. Don’t get me wrong, it is well-written, but I never realized how much Abbie (or his family for that matter) suffered. Then in 1989, Abbie committed his worst crime: suicide. Just look at how sad and distant Jack’s words are in his desciption of his brother’s suicide: “Sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, Abbie emptied 150 or more 30-milligram phenobarbitals into a glass of Glenlivet single malt Scotch whiskey, gulped that down, and then filled and swallowed four or five glasses of the Scotch as fast he could. It only took a few minutes for the drug to take hold of him, and then he lay down to die” (353). The emotional turmoil of the Lives of Abbie Hoffman is made clearer than ever. And when the story reaches its conclusion we understand why this is the title of the book. Abbie truly led several different lives, some more stable than others, but ultimately in each of those characters was a pillar of responsibility. Responsibilty to the people around you, the people that are suffering around the world, and a responsibility to never give up, even when it seems the rest of the world is against you. Abbie Hoffman showed us that loving your country did not mean sucking Uncle Sam’s dick. Yeah, I think he would have liked that.

Grade: 8/10

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