I finished reading Tom Hayden’s Reunion: A Memoir, the day Abbie Hoffman was found dead at the age of 52 in his Pennsylvania apartment, an apparent suicide. Reunion, which was completed prior to the break-up of Hayden’s 16-year marriage to the aerobics entrepreneur and sometime actress Jane Fonda, has a sort of happy ending – the title refers to Hayden’s reconciliation with his father following a decade and a half of alienation. Hoffman’s end was evidently not so happy. It is a difficult metamorphosis, this one from celebrated young firebrand to middle-aged, sociological footnote. Change, settle down, or make any attempt at milking your arc of fame in the pursuit of another career, and you are branded a pathetic loser, a sell-out. Stay the same, and like Hoffman you become a grizzled embarrassing fossil with an entourage of fringe loners and assorted nuts.
No, a quiet, graceful subtlety is what is called for here. You’ve got to age, grow less rebellious, but still somehow stay vital without letting anyone notice the changes along the way. Hayden recalls once telling Norman Thomas ‘that too many American radicals end up honored but irrelevant’. Hayden has