A man named Freedom looks back on his tumultuous 1960s childhood in the limelight with his countercultural icon father, Lenny Snyder, a character whose life follows the biography of the infamous activist Abbie Hoffman.
Furst’s richly researched and detailed book gives us a vivid portrait of the Lower East Side in the ’60s and ’70s from the perspective of a radical milieu, but also from a child’s-eye, street-level view ... Freedom from a corrupt social order, as the characters achieve it, means excision from the economic webs that underpin not just material but social life. Is this a courageous or a foolhardy—even selfish—course? Revolutionaries examines the question from every angle, orbiting the evidence and arguments in a case it refuses to judge ... The novel’s ultimate beauty—like its characters’—is spiritual. It refuses to sanctify or condemn anyone ... In a deeply felt and often beautiful book, Furst has done his part to continue this song [of countercultural ideals].
Seeking to demythologize an era, Furst upends our often nostalgic, peace-and-love view of the Sixties. He's particularly adept at painting a visceral picture of Freedom's surroundings, using the observational gifts of a child; glimpses of real-life activist figures such as William Kunstler and Phil Ochs add to the verisimilitude. Recommended.
Never seen from the inside out, Lenny remains the sum of his loud and repetitious behaviors, and, as with Hoffman himself, a little of him goes a long way. Revolutionaries is best when Lenny is out of sight—locked up or on the run ... Phil Ochs, appearing without an alias, is the book’s most poignant figure—and, in fact, a far richer subject for a novel than Abbie Hoffman. The reader initially cringes as this gentle folksinger, spiralling through delusions of persecution, becomes a fat and drunk maunderer. But Furst’s portrait of him ends up being rounded and tender ... Revolutionaries also has to fight its way out of the long shadow cast by The Book of Daniel (1971), E. L. Doctorow’s novel about the surviving son of Paul and Rochelle Isaacson, a couple closely modelled on the Rosenbergs ... Revolutionaries is a much more modest production. It is, to be sure, over-exampled and overdetermined, but it knows how to get out of its own way—how, intermittently, to turn down the political and historical volume to let a reader see instead of just hear.