Speaking Freely

Speaking Freely
September 16th 1997 by Knopf
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Included in Speaking Freely are, as Nat Hentoff writes: "My lives as a radical (according to the FBI); an 'enslaver of women' (according to pro-choicers); a suspiciously unpredictable civil-libertarian (according to the ACLU); a dangerous defender of alleged pornography (according to my friend Catherine MacKinnon); an irrelevant, anachronistic integrationist (according to assorted black nationalists); and, as an editor at the Washington Post once said, not unkindly--'a  general pain in the ass.' " Continuing the story that began in his widely praised Boston Boy, Nat Hentoff in Speaking Freely guides us through more than forty years of his life in journalism, a career as various as his passions, and follows our social history from the civil rights and antiwar movements to the most incendiary battles (such as abortion) of the present day. Hentoff first evokes New York in the fifties, when he wrote for the jazz magazine Down Beat and came to know some of the most talented jazzmen of all time--Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Dizzy Gillespie, to name only a few. He looks back to his apprenticeship under George Seldes and I. F. Stone, two unyieldingly independent journalists whom he credits with charting his direction in the field. And he recounts his associations with a wide array of Americans, from Malcolm X, who was a friend, to Louis Farrakhan, who has labeled Hentoff "the Antichrist" ; from Adlai Stevenson to John Cardinal O'Connor; and from the "utterly singular" editor of The New Yorker, William Shawn, to uncelebrated heroes far afield from Manhattan and Washington. As a staff writer for the Village Voice and a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, Hentoff has gained a reputation as one of the nation's most respected, uncompromising, and controversial writers on civil liberties and on the difficult issues and wide-ranging forms of injustice manifest in our age. Written with deep honesty and affection, and rooted in music, politics, and the press, Speaking Freely is a memoir as candid, opinionated, and provocative as any American journalist has ever offered.

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