[sixties-l] Fugitive Days by Bill Ayers (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Mon Dec 17 2001 - 18:05:45 EST

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    Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2001 13:28:25 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Fugitive Days by Bill Ayers

    Fugitive Days
    by Bill Ayers
    Beacon Press


    Reviewed by Bob Cook (rkcookjr@yahoo.com)

    Bill Ayers would seem to be the unluckiest author in bookdom these days.
    "Fugitive Days," his memoir of being an unrepentant advocate of violence in
    the name of fighting injustice, was released days before the Sept. 11
    airplane hijackings and bombings committed by, apparently, unrepentant
    advocates of violence in the name of fighting injustice. The morning of the
    attack, the New York Times ran a feature tied to Ayers' book headlined: "No
    Regrets for a Love of Explosives."
    "I don't regret setting bombs," the Times quoted Ayers as saying about his
    days with the Weathermen, a radical and violent offshoot of the 1960s-era
    New Left group Students for a Democratic Society. "I feel we didn't do enough."
    Oh, that doesn't look good.
    The title itself is a misnomer. Ayers doesn't get to the actual fugitive
    part of his book until page 204 of 293 pages. And the payoff isn't great
    once he gets to the actual fugitive days, which is too bad, because that's
    where the book shows its greatest potential. The personal anecdotes of life
    on the lam can be striking in showing what mundanity is given up in a life
    on the run. "I wondered if I would ever eat a hot dog at Wrigley Field
    again," Ayers writes.
    Ayers details his life from birth through an idyllic 1950s childhood and
    subsequent activist awakening at the University of Michigan in the 1960s,
    an awakening that, given his penchant for writing exquisite descriptions of
    the women he meets, seems to be as much about getting laid as getting justice.
    This part of the story is necessary, but it shouldn't dominate the book.
    Most of the 1960s events Ayers chronicles, like the 1968 Democratic
    convention and the following year's "Days of Rage" uprising in Chicago,
    have been well-told elsewhere; he tells us the crowd chanted "The whole
    world is watching" to the Chicago police, as if no one had ever heard that
    What is most interesting about Ayers is that he and other members of the
    Weathermen went underground in 1970, following the accidental bombing
    deaths of three of their members in a Greenwich Village townhouse. Ayers,
    and the others, re-emerged in 1981 after one Weatherman, Kathy Boudin,
    participated in a Brinks truck robbery attempt that ended with two cohorts
    shooting and killing two Nyack, N.Y., police officers. Interestingly, Ayers
    doesn't explain why the robbery led to his re-emergence, nor does he
    mention the cops killed, dismissing the episode as a "bloody robbery attempt."
    Ayers begins the book with the sentence, "Memory is a motherfucker," which
    is a running theme about how memory can betray you, although it's possibly
    also a justification for leaving certain events out such as almost
    everything that happened to Ayers between 1973 and 1981. What should be
    the climactic part of the book
    Ayers' surrender to the FBI and his subsequent release because of
    government misconduct gets tossed in like an afterthought. And his memory
    seems quite selective Ayers remembers every pointless polemical argument
    within his group, but he forgets to mention that he advised the young to
    "kill all the rich people, break up their cars and apartments, bring the
    revolution home, kill your parents, that's where it's at."
    The memory that haunts the book is the death of Ayers' girlfriend, Diana
    Oughton, in the 1970 blast. Because of his instant fugitive status after
    the explosion, Ayers couldn't take a close look at the townhouse, and he
    couldn't take time to mourn. Near the book's conclusion, he describes a
    recent visit to the Vietnam War memorial in which he writes her name in
    chalk on the sidewalk; seeing Oughton as much a casualty of Vietnam as any
    soldier, the action represents the collision of Ayers' politics and
    personal life. Her death is the one thing that has led him to question if
    he ever went too far in his politics.
    In a line of influential women Ayers lists (his mother and current wife,
    former Weatherman Bernadine Dohrn), Oughton seemed to have the most
    influence on the person he became. It's very possible that this book was
    meant not to be so much a memoir, but therapy for Ayers in trying to come
    to terms with her death.

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