If you're looking for a book to read while waiting out the hot, humid that weather, I highly recommend Jeffrey Toobin's new book, "American Heiress:The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst," Toobin makes you feel that you are on the scene as this bizarre episode of American history unfolds.
The Plainfield Public Library has a copy, which I borrowed and read very quickly. During the early 1970s, I was dealing with some family turmoil and did not register most of the news stories about Patty Hearst. This book not only goes far beyond the bare facts as they might have appeared in the newspapers, it fleshes out the personalities and motivations of the individuals involved.
It made me remember the era of radicalism that predated the one we know now. People were robbing banks and making bombs in the war against corporate interests. The epithet "fascist insect" made me laugh, but these folks were not kidding. The grandiosity of the Symbionese Liberation Army, with its "generals" and manifestos, reminded me of some current groups that claim national or international power when in fact they are just as rag-tag a bunch as the nine SLA members. We wonder today how young people can become terrorists and yet the SLA murdered without compunction because of their beliefs.
Having recently read Marge Piercy's stories of radical cells and their ideologies, I was not surprised by Toobin's account of the fluid sexual relationships among the SLA communards or the elaborate use of code names and other ploys to avoid detection. The casual car-stealing and shoplifting demonstrated the group's disconnection from society, culminating in a horrific shootout with authorities.
Toobin describes Hearst's changing emotions compellingly, even though she declined to be interviewed for the book. It has been called a page-turner, and if all you can manage in the heat is to turn pages, this book is a very good choice.
See a New York Times review here.