Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left

Overview

When Kathy Boudin was arrested in 1981 after a botched armed robbery and shootout that left a Brinks guard and two policemen dead, she ended a decade living underground as part of the radical Weathermen underground; she would spend the next 22 years in Bedford Hills prison. In Family Circle, Boudin’s former classmate Susan Braudy vividly re-creates the radicalization of this intelligent, privileged young woman who came from one of the most prominent liberal intellectual families in America. She illuminates ...
See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$13.48
BN.com price
(Save 15%)$15.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $1.99   
  • New (4) from $9.18   
  • Used (13) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

When Kathy Boudin was arrested in 1981 after a botched armed robbery and shootout that left a Brinks guard and two policemen dead, she ended a decade living underground as part of the radical Weathermen underground; she would spend the next 22 years in Bedford Hills prison. In Family Circle, Boudin’s former classmate Susan Braudy vividly re-creates the radicalization of this intelligent, privileged young woman who came from one of the most prominent liberal intellectual families in America. She illuminates Boudin’s relationship with her parents --and particularly with her father Leonard, a famous leftist lawyer--and shows how Kathy, swept up in the ferment of the late 1960s, moved further and further from the Old Left ideals they embodied.

Based on extensive interviews, court documents, and Boudin family papers, Family Circle is both a rich biography of a family and a intimate window into a turbulent and fascinating time.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A gripping study. . . . A powerful narrative.” --The New York Times Book Review

“Tough-minded, honest, and thoroughly absorbing.” --The New Republic

“The tensions, conflicts, and eventual downfall of a seemingly confident dynasty of radical tinkers and super-achievers . . . give Susan Braudy’s Family Circle its stunning power. . . . As Braudy tells it, the story attains the epic stature of a genuine American tragedy.” --The Women’s Review of Books

“Fascinating . . . Braudy, who knew Kathy growing up, delves deeply into her family’s crippling psychological games.” –People

“Rethinks what makes a radical tick." --New York Daily News

The New York Times
These details are not mere raisins in a cake, but the building blocks of a powerful narrative about one of the great failures in the history of American political activism, as pointless and damaging, in its way, as the war in Vietnam itself. Family Circle is not a manual for how to fix the world, but an unblinking look at what happens when people convince themselves that ideals can excuse anything. Kathy may have wanted to believe it was logic that led her to armed robbery and murder, but Braudy shows persuasively that it was not the system, but Leonard's disdain for ''frittering away her life by holding other people's hands,'' that pushed Kathy ever further down a dead-end road. — Thomas Powers
Publishers Weekly
When Kathy Boudin walked out of prison recently after serving 20 years of a 20-year-to-life sentence, it was front-page news and an eerie echo of a rapidly receding era. Boudin had been an accomplice in a notorious 1981 Brinks robbery by the Black Liberation Army in which one Brinks guard and two police officers were killed. Boudin's release was an odd reminder of a time when revolution was in the air and some, namely Boudin's Weather Underground, thought they could bring it by violence. Braudy (Who Killed Sal Mineo? etc.), who knew Boudin at college in the early '60s, sees the Boudin "family circle" as revolving around the father-daughter dyad of Leonard and Kathy, locked in a love-hate relationship that involved a fierce need by each for the other's approval and an equally fierce need to outradicalize the other. Leonard was a celebrated leftist lawyer whose clients included Dr. Benjamin Spock, Fidel Castro and Daniel Ellsberg. But Kathy insisted, according to Braudy, that she was the one who would end the war in Vietnam and bring racial equality through her guerrilla tactics. It's an unpleasant, even suffocating tale: Leonard comes off as preening and self-regarding, a chronic seducer of young women; Kathy as arrogant and rigidly ideological, scolding anyone who wouldn't join her revolution. But in reducing Kathy's radical motivations to a battle with her father, Braudy offers a thin portrait with no resonance and no emotional toehold for the reader-no one in this sad story appears sympathetic in Braudy's portrayal; Kathy's mother, clearly deserving sympathy, is only a shadowy bit player. Braudy's is a small account of events and people meriting a broader, larger-spirited chronicle. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Journalist Braudy undertakes a labyrinthine task in chronicling the rise and fall of Kathy Boudin, her onetime classmate at Bryn Mawr who became a member of the violently Socialist 1970s group Weather Underground and eventually made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. Boudin was ultimately sentenced to prison in connection with an infamous Brink's armored truck robbery that ended in murder. Published at the time of her long-sought parole this fall, the book clumsily tracks not only Kathy's path through leftist America but also the family's checkered legacy of political and legal activism. (Her father, Leonard Boudin, carried on a family tradition of championing leftist causes by arguing before the Supreme Court in a 1950s espionage trial.) Braudy closely examines the rivalry and upheaval of the Boudin family, especially in the context of Kathy's legal ordeals, stirring controversy by claiming that Boudin's illegal activities were a bid to be recognized by her father as a greater influence on society. The text is provocative in terms of scandals and counterculture but resembles the static installments of a scrapbook rather than an unfolding drama. Not recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/03.]-Elizabeth Morris, formerly with the Otsego Dist. P.L., MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400077489
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/9/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 1,179,129
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Braudy was born in Philadelphia and was educated at Bryn Mawr, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. She has written for many magazines, including the New York Times, Newsweek, and The Atlantic Monthly. She is the author of four previous books, among them This Crazy Thing Called Love. She lives in New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

LEONARD BOUDIN-DEEP
BACKGROUND

The refinement of our historical past chiefly means that we keep it properly complicated.
-Lionel Trilling, "The Sense of the Past"

The great labor lawyer and scholar Louis B. Boudin (the initial B. denoting Boudinovitch, the original English translation of the name) cast a long shadow over his nephew Leonard B. Boudin's entire life. While still a small child in the second decade of the twentieth century, Leonard proclaimed that he planned to learn "all the laws in the world and be more famous than Uncle Louis."

For Louis, legal scholarship was holy; he saw the courts as a locus of enormous powers. He wrote the weighty book Government by Judiciary, attacking the Supreme Court during the Depression when the justices of the Court were blocking President Roosevelt's economic reforms. Louis's was a populist message; the people and their elected representatives should make the laws.

The fact that Louis had no sons made his arm's-length relationship with his nephew Leonard more momentous. Louis would be a prime influence on Leonard's children, Kathy and Michael, although they remembered little of his physical presence.

Louis's belief in the greatness of his mission-an intellectual life of legal service to the underclasses-overshadowed the influence of Leonard's far more ordinary father, Joe, a coarse, bellicose man who made a living in real estate law and foreclosing mortgages.

Louis was small and plump and looked like a storekeeper until he opened his mouth often to shout an opinion. And because he was so revered in Europe and the United States as an outstanding labor lawyer, foremost interpreter of Karl Marx and historian of the Supreme Court, his temper tantrums as well as his parsimony prompted fond jokes instead of enmity. He was considered "a great man" and allowances were made.

His nephew Leonard would treasure a European cartoon of Louis scowling disdainfully, under a black cloud. The figure's legs were short, his torso pigeonlike, and under one arm was a volume of the writings of Karl Marx. The caption of the cartoon: "The Hon. Louis Boudin loses his temper."

Louis B. Boudin was born in southeastern Russia in 1874, the oldest of five children. He emigrated to Manhattan in 1891 on his own, where he almost miraculously flourished in just a few years. Louis was too proud to admit that anti-Semitism had forced him to leave Russia. He earned his master's degree from New York University Law School in 1897, while shedding most traces of a Russian accent in his spoken English.

Louis's love for his new country was ever-expanding. He saw no conflict between his belief in both Marxist economics and the genius of the United States Constitution. He felt socialism was fairer than capitalism and should prevail.

Louis's mother longed to emigrate to the United States because she missed her favorite person in the world. On the rare day that a letter from Louis failed to arrive, she wept. Louis soon made arrangements for his parents, two brothers, and two sisters to flee. His brothers Joe and Samuel, and his sisters Sarah and Mary, packed handwoven linens and sateen featherbedding in preparation for their journey.

But when they reached the nearby city of Kiev, a cholera epidemic was raging. Leonard's grandmother's featherbedding was confiscated and burned. She managed to hide one little embroidered silk pillow in a brass samovar, and later bestowed it upon her favorite grandchild, Leonard.

Louis's parents never learned much English. A family story, told as a joke, illustrates that fact. Riding the subway during World War I, Louis's father misunderstood a stranger's remark excoriating pacifists and was almost arrested as a spy. The anthropologist Margaret Mead later observed that nearly all Boudin family problems were grist for jokes.

After graduation from law school, Louis had started a general practice on the Lower East Side, but soon represented almost all of the socialist and communist unions in New York, including the furriers, restaurant workers, united office and professional workers, and the amalgamated utility workers. In the first decades of the twentieth century, emerging labor unions were on the minds of many serious thinkers, politicians, and working people.

A difficult aspect of Louis Boudin's legacy is illustrated by his obdurate attempt to join the first convention of the International Workers of the World, known as the "Wobblies," on June 27, 1905, in Chicago.

Two hundred socialists, anarchists, and union leaders gathered there to create "one big industrial union" to be "founded on the class struggle." The delegates refused to seat Louis, then thirty-one, because as a prosperous lawyer he was "a parasite on the working class." Louis shouted out his commitment to the working man for six long days. But it was no use.

Delegate Lillian Forberg told the assembled group: "It is a well-known fact that no attorney of law could be anything else but a parasite. We are here to fight the whole parasitical class and to organize the working class."

The situation was complex: Louis believed himself to be morally superior to middle-class friends because of his work on behalf of the less fortunate. But Louis's life was buttressed by the objects and security of class privilege and this anomaly led him to sometimes talk as if he were trying to destroy himself. Seventy-five years later, Kathy Boudin claimed to see her birth to a family of well-to-do whites as an agonizing defect to be obliterated by rationalization, violence, and self-deprivation. Kathy wanted above all somehow to discipline her mind and body into being a member of the black working class.

Soon after Louis's humiliation at the convention in Chicago, his brother Joe fell for fair-haired Clara Hessner at the Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan. Founded by Lillian Wald, a shrewd, generous nurse of German-Jewish descent, the center trained volunteers to teach immigrant women like Clara Hessner how to talk back to school superintendents, court clerks, police sergeants, and other public officials who condescended to them.

Although overlooked as a role model for Leonard and his children, Louis and Joe's sister Sarah was a pioneer in the emerging field of social work. As a young woman, Sarah sewed neckties in a sweatshop, the rare Boudin to possess a legitimate if brief membership in the proletariat. Nights she took classes to qualify for law school. She organized coworkers for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The hours were long-the harsh cry of management was "If you don't come in on Sunday, don't come in on Monday"-and the male shop foreman had free rein to humiliate female workers.

Sarah retaliated by organizing the women to stop work as soon as he was out of sight. But she was fired after the foreman saw her picture at a strike meeting on the front page of the Forward, the six-page daily Yiddish-language newspaper. She then went to work as a secretary for her favorite brother, Louis, in preparation for law school. But Sarah came to realize that she'd find legal research boring, and she soon married William Edlin, an editor and drama critic at the Forward.

When Louis's wife, Anna, died, his sister Sarah and her husband moved into Louis's big house in Brooklyn, where Sarah tended to Louis's small children. Sarah's husband, William, felt neglected. After a divorce, Sarah thought about going to law school again, rejected the idea, and enrolled instead at the New York School of Social Work, vowing to "make a difference."

After her graduation Sarah took over the Lakeview Home on Staten Island for unmarried mothers sponsored by the Jewish Board of Guardians. Recent immigrants from Russia, the young girls had worked as domestics and factory workers. Her duties for the next fifty years ranged from "statistics to shoveling coal." Sarah insisted the girls see themselves as worthy members of society. She canceled restrictive practices such as locking the girls' clothes in lockers in the basement to keep them from running away. Encouraged by Louis, she wrote a blunt book called The Unmarried Mother in Our Society, replete with common sense and affection.

Following Louis's lead, Leonard's mother, Clara, disdained Sarah's endeavors as not truly intellectual. Clara saved all adulatory reviews of Louis Boudin's ponderous books. Presumably she knew exactly how much her practice irked her insecure husband, Joe. Joe felt more comfortable around his brother Samuel, also a City College graduate, and a highway and tunnels engineer.

Joe screamed that Louis was "selfish" and cared only about famous friends and footnotes in his books. Louis bragged of shouting at Leon Trotsky and of his correspondence with Rosa Luxembourg as well as with Jack London who signed "Yours for the revolution." A founder of the U.S. Socialist Party, Louis was a popular speaker on socialism and democracy at college campus meetings of the LID (League for Industrial Democracy, the precursor to SDS, Students for a Democratic Society).

Leonard B. Boudin (he adopted the "B" in homage to his uncle) was born on July 20, 1912. When he was six, his father moved his family from Brooklyn to a large corner house at Eighty-fifth Avenue and 150th Street in Richmond Hill, Queens. Leonard loved rolling on the big lawns with his collie. He watered the family's acre of cornfields and helped his father grease his automobile on Sundays.

There was perhaps only one person who could have foreseen that the dazed little boy with a lisp would one day be known as "a great man" to judges and legal theorists in England, Chile, Cuba, and the United States. But that person made all the difference. She was Leonard's weepy and fine-featured mother. Throughout his life Leonard would retain the attitude of an adored boy.

Clara saw her own angelic face every time she looked at Leonard. She brushed his fair hair and whispered in his ear that despite Joe's insults, Leonard was "the smartest little boy in America." He seemed unable to stop hugging her. When he lost her full attention he pretended to duck under her skirt. As an adolescent he became sexually aroused for the first time at the sight of her underwear.

Much of Leonard's difficulty as a small child stemmed from his humiliating lisp. Joe berated Leonard for not speaking up in classrooms. Leonard's elementary-school teachers, two of whom lived next door, told Joe that Leonard daydreamed four serial fantasies at once.

In later years Leonard remembered his teachers as "mediocre and dull." He and Joe agonized over Leonard's poor performance in Latin and German. Leonard also had terrible handwriting, despite hours of practicing the Palmer method with Joe. He despaired: his father and uncle wrote beautifully. To please his mother, Leonard played the piano, but not well. Nonetheless Clara dreamed aloud that Leonard might be a concert pianist. To make her smile, Leonard danced while Clara played Chopin.

In 1920, when Leonard was eight, his brother Arthur was born. Athletic Arthur was his father's favorite.

A few years later, Leonard's mother, Clara, told her husband she was leaving him. Joe threw himself on the floor and banged his head against it. Leonard welcomed the silence that followed such fights.

A legendary flirt, Clara practiced Christian Science, influenced by one of Joe's real estate clients who was smitten with her. As a result, she treated Leonard's frequent headaches only with prayer. But she did enroll Leonard in speech therapy classes for his lisp.

After school he cut out editorials for his father from the New York Law Journal, cross-indexing "matrimony and divorce," and pasted bookplates in Joe's law books. Clara wept because her husband "treated Leonard like an enslaved law clerk."

When Joe taught Leonard to play chess, the boy's inability to concentrate vanished. Chess can be a harsh lesson for a child: one player's gain is another player's loss. Joe was thrilled by Leonard's passion for beating him. Mortified by his lisp, Leonard had an immediate affinity for the "silent" war strategies of chess. He enjoyed "quick slaughter." Leonard read book after book about chess champions and decided that arrogance was key.

Clara soon invited Morton Gould, whose father worked with her husband, to perform at one of her musical soirees. Three years older than Leonard, Morton was a piano prodigy and the most famous boy in Richmond Hill. He had written original compositions at the kitchen table before he was five years old. By age eight he'd won one of many scholarshops to music school. Thrilled to have him in her home, Clara flirted with the boy. Sixteen-year-old Leonard was jealous of the older boy's effect on Clara. Leonard began to practice the piano more feverishly than ever. Desperate to bask in Morton's reflected glory, Leonard embarked on a brief and fumbling intimate relationship with the older boy.

In winter 1929, Joe Boudin startled neighbors walking by his home on 114th Street in Richmond Hills, by yelling to one and all, "I'm a failure. I can't buy food to put on the table." Joe cursed his sweeping losses in Florida real estate. Leonard hid in his room where he read novels and daydreamed. Joe refused to listen to "pie in the sky" solutions to the vicissitudes of the Great Depression, espoused by his brother Louis. He jeered at news that a million frightened Americans marched on May 1 in Manhattan to commemorate the Russian Revolution.

Joe was reduced to doing clerical work: he foreclosed mortgages for landlords. He also managed a bail bond agency.

Joe was soon dealt another blow. Leonard's application for admission to City College, Joe's alma mater, was rejected. The humiliating reason: bad grades in geometry, Latin, and German. Joe pulled strings to get Leonard an interview with the college president. Leonard was winning in the interview and was admitted. In later years, Leonard simplified his problems by claiming that he had attended Harvard, where he said that he'd been nothing special as a student.

Life on the City College campus was fervent. The all-male student body was gripped by the political crises of the Depression. Many were fanatically devoted to competing intellectual solutions. They brought lunch from home in brown bags, and the select among them ate in special areas of the cafeteria. Anti-Stalinist students ate in alcove #1; these were socialists and Trotskyists and included Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, and Seymour Melman. In alcove #2 were pro-Stalin students who were at times forbidden by the party to talk to members of #1. After shouting at one another until they were hoarse about how best to save the world, the boys scurried off together to afternoon classes.

Leonard helped to run the exclusive alcove of the chess team. Pure intellection was the credo. Leonard gulped down his mother's jelly sandwiches and supervised concurrent combative games of chess. Tryouts for the chess team, advertised in the school newspaper, consisted of playing three games against Leonard. A sly dig in his yearbook caption hinted at Leonard's lifelong fascination with famous men. "Lenny lives on the strength of his uncle's intelligence and his friends' cynicism."

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

LEONARD BOUDIN-DEEP
BACKGROUND

The refinement of our historical past chiefly means that we keep it properly complicated.
-Lionel Trilling, "The Sense of the Past"

The great labor lawyer and scholar Louis B. Boudin (the initial B. denoting Boudinovitch, the original English translation of the name) cast a long shadow over his nephew Leonard B. Boudin's entire life. While still a small child in the second decade of the twentieth century, Leonard proclaimed that he planned to learn "all the laws in the world and be more famous than Uncle Louis."

For Louis, legal scholarship was holy; he saw the courts as a locus of enormous powers. He wrote the weighty book Government by Judiciary, attacking the Supreme Court during the Depression when the justices of the Court were blocking President Roosevelt's economic reforms. Louis's was a populist message; the people and their elected representatives should make the laws.

The fact that Louis had no sons made his arm's-length relationship with his nephew Leonard more momentous. Louis would be a prime influence on Leonard's children, Kathy and Michael, although they remembered little of his physical presence.

Louis's belief in the greatness of his mission-an intellectual life of legal service to the underclasses-overshadowed the influence of Leonard's far more ordinary father, Joe, a coarse, bellicose man who made a living in real estate law and foreclosing mortgages.

Louis was small and plump and looked like a storekeeper until he opened his mouth often to shout an opinion. And because he was so revered in Europe and the United States as an outstanding labor lawyer, foremost interpreterof Karl Marx and historian of the Supreme Court, his temper tantrums as well as his parsimony prompted fond jokes instead of enmity. He was considered "a great man" and allowances were made.

His nephew Leonard would treasure a European cartoon of Louis scowling disdainfully, under a black cloud. The figure's legs were short, his torso pigeonlike, and under one arm was a volume of the writings of Karl Marx. The caption of the cartoon: "The Hon. Louis Boudin loses his temper."

Louis B. Boudin was born in southeastern Russia in 1874, the oldest of five children. He emigrated to Manhattan in 1891 on his own, where he almost miraculously flourished in just a few years. Louis was too proud to admit that anti-Semitism had forced him to leave Russia. He earned his master's degree from New York University Law School in 1897, while shedding most traces of a Russian accent in his spoken English.

Louis's love for his new country was ever-expanding. He saw no conflict between his belief in both Marxist economics and the genius of the United States Constitution. He felt socialism was fairer than capitalism and should prevail.

Louis's mother longed to emigrate to the United States because she missed her favorite person in the world. On the rare day that a letter from Louis failed to arrive, she wept. Louis soon made arrangements for his parents, two brothers, and two sisters to flee. His brothers Joe and Samuel, and his sisters Sarah and Mary, packed handwoven linens and sateen featherbedding in preparation for their journey.

But when they reached the nearby city of Kiev, a cholera epidemic was raging. Leonard's grandmother's featherbedding was confiscated and burned. She managed to hide one little embroidered silk pillow in a brass samovar, and later bestowed it upon her favorite grandchild, Leonard.

Louis's parents never learned much English. A family story, told as a joke, illustrates that fact. Riding the subway during World War I, Louis's father misunderstood a stranger's remark excoriating pacifists and was almost arrested as a spy. The anthropologist Margaret Mead later observed that nearly all Boudin family problems were grist for jokes.

After graduation from law school, Louis had started a general practice on the Lower East Side, but soon represented almost all of the socialist and communist unions in New York, including the furriers, restaurant workers, united office and professional workers, and the amalgamated utility workers. In the first decades of the twentieth century, emerging labor unions were on the minds of many serious thinkers, politicians, and working people.

A difficult aspect of Louis Boudin's legacy is illustrated by his obdurate attempt to join the first convention of the International Workers of the World, known as the "Wobblies," on June 27, 1905, in Chicago.

Two hundred socialists, anarchists, and union leaders gathered there to create "one big industrial union" to be "founded on the class struggle." The delegates refused to seat Louis, then thirty-one, because as a prosperous lawyer he was "a parasite on the working class." Louis shouted out his commitment to the working man for six long days. But it was no use.

Delegate Lillian Forberg told the assembled group: "It is a well-known fact that no attorney of law could be anything else but a parasite. We are here to fight the whole parasitical class and to organize the working class."

The situation was complex: Louis believed himself to be morally superior to middle-class friends because of his work on behalf of the less fortunate. But Louis's life was buttressed by the objects and security of class privilege and this anomaly led him to sometimes talk as if he were trying to destroy himself. Seventy-five years later, Kathy Boudin claimed to see her birth to a family of well-to-do whites as an agonizing defect to be obliterated by rationalization, violence, and self-deprivation. Kathy wanted above all somehow to discipline her mind and body into being a member of the black working class.

Soon after Louis's humiliation at the convention in Chicago, his brother Joe fell for fair-haired Clara Hessner at the Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan. Founded by Lillian Wald, a shrewd, generous nurse of German-Jewish descent, the center trained volunteers to teach immigrant women like Clara Hessner how to talk back to school superintendents, court clerks, police sergeants, and other public officials who condescended to them.

Although overlooked as a role model for Leonard and his children, Louis and Joe's sister Sarah was a pioneer in the emerging field of social work. As a young woman, Sarah sewed neckties in a sweatshop, the rare Boudin to possess a legitimate if brief membership in the proletariat. Nights she took classes to qualify for law school. She organized coworkers for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The hours were long-the harsh cry of management was "If you don't come in on Sunday, don't come in on Monday"-and the male shop foreman had free rein to humiliate female workers.

Sarah retaliated by organizing the women to stop work as soon as he was out of sight. But she was fired after the foreman saw her picture at a strike meeting on the front page of the Forward, the six-page daily Yiddish-language newspaper. She then went to work as a secretary for her favorite brother, Louis, in preparation for law school. But Sarah came to realize that she'd find legal research boring, and she soon married William Edlin, an editor and drama critic at the Forward.

When Louis's wife, Anna, died, his sister Sarah and her husband moved into Louis's big house in Brooklyn, where Sarah tended to Louis's small children. Sarah's husband, William, felt neglected. After a divorce, Sarah thought about going to law school again, rejected the idea, and enrolled instead at the New York School of Social Work, vowing to "make a difference."

After her graduation Sarah took over the Lakeview Home on Staten Island for unmarried mothers sponsored by the Jewish Board of Guardians. Recent immigrants from Russia, the young girls had worked as domestics and factory workers. Her duties for the next fifty years ranged from "statistics to shoveling coal." Sarah insisted the girls see themselves as worthy members of society. She canceled restrictive practices such as locking the girls' clothes in lockers in the basement to keep them from running away. Encouraged by Louis, she wrote a blunt book called The Unmarried Mother in Our Society, replete with common sense and affection.

Following Louis's lead, Leonard's mother, Clara, disdained Sarah's endeavors as not truly intellectual. Clara saved all adulatory reviews of Louis Boudin's ponderous books. Presumably she knew exactly how much her practice irked her insecure husband, Joe. Joe felt more comfortable around his brother Samuel, also a City College graduate, and a highway and tunnels engineer.

Joe screamed that Louis was "selfish" and cared only about famous friends and footnotes in his books. Louis bragged of shouting at Leon Trotsky and of his correspondence with Rosa Luxembourg as well as with Jack London who signed "Yours for the revolution." A founder of the U.S. Socialist Party, Louis was a popular speaker on socialism and democracy at college campus meetings of the LID (League for Industrial Democracy, the precursor to SDS, Students for a Democratic Society).

Leonard B. Boudin (he adopted the "B" in homage to his uncle) was born on July 20, 1912. When he was six, his father moved his family from Brooklyn to a large corner house at Eighty-fifth Avenue and 150th Street in Richmond Hill, Queens. Leonard loved rolling on the big lawns with his collie. He watered the family's acre of cornfields and helped his father grease his automobile on Sundays.

There was perhaps only one person who could have foreseen that the dazed little boy with a lisp would one day be known as "a great man" to judges and legal theorists in England, Chile, Cuba, and the United States. But that person made all the difference. She was Leonard's weepy and fine-featured mother. Throughout his life Leonard would retain the attitude of an adored boy.

Clara saw her own angelic face every time she looked at Leonard. She brushed his fair hair and whispered in his ear that despite Joe's insults, Leonard was "the smartest little boy in America." He seemed unable to stop hugging her. When he lost her full attention he pretended to duck under her skirt. As an adolescent he became sexually aroused for the first time at the sight of her underwear.

Much of Leonard's difficulty as a small child stemmed from his humiliating lisp. Joe berated Leonard for not speaking up in classrooms. Leonard's elementary-school teachers, two of whom lived next door, told Joe that Leonard daydreamed four serial fantasies at once.

In later years Leonard remembered his teachers as "mediocre and dull." He and Joe agonized over Leonard's poor performance in Latin and German. Leonard also had terrible handwriting, despite hours of practicing the Palmer method with Joe. He despaired: his father and uncle wrote beautifully. To please his mother, Leonard played the piano, but not well. Nonetheless Clara dreamed aloud that Leonard might be a concert pianist. To make her smile, Leonard danced while Clara played Chopin.

In 1920, when Leonard was eight, his brother Arthur was born. Athletic Arthur was his father's favorite.

A few years later, Leonard's mother, Clara, told her husband she was leaving him. Joe threw himself on the floor and banged his head against it. Leonard welcomed the silence that followed such fights.

A legendary flirt, Clara practiced Christian Science, influenced by one of Joe's real estate clients who was smitten with her. As a result, she treated Leonard's frequent headaches only with prayer. But she did enroll Leonard in speech therapy classes for his lisp.

After school he cut out editorials for his father from the New York Law Journal, cross-indexing "matrimony and divorce," and pasted bookplates in Joe's law books. Clara wept because her husband "treated Leonard like an enslaved law clerk."

When Joe taught Leonard to play chess, the boy's inability to concentrate vanished. Chess can be a harsh lesson for a child: one player's gain is another player's loss. Joe was thrilled by Leonard's passion for beating him. Mortified by his lisp, Leonard had an immediate affinity for the "silent" war strategies of chess. He enjoyed "quick slaughter." Leonard read book after book about chess champions and decided that arrogance was key.

Clara soon invited Morton Gould, whose father worked with her husband, to perform at one of her musical soirees. Three years older than Leonard, Morton was a piano prodigy and the most famous boy in Richmond Hill. He had written original compositions at the kitchen table before he was five years old. By age eight he'd won one of many scholarshops to music school. Thrilled to have him in her home, Clara flirted with the boy. Sixteen-year-old Leonard was jealous of the older boy's effect on Clara. Leonard began to practice the piano more feverishly than ever. Desperate to bask in Morton's reflected glory, Leonard embarked on a brief and fumbling intimate relationship with the older boy.

In winter 1929, Joe Boudin startled neighbors walking by his home on 114th Street in Richmond Hills, by yelling to one and all, "I'm a failure. I can't buy food to put on the table." Joe cursed his sweeping losses in Florida real estate. Leonard hid in his room where he read novels and daydreamed. Joe refused to listen to "pie in the sky" solutions to the vicissitudes of the Great Depression, espoused by his brother Louis. He jeered at news that a million frightened Americans marched on May 1 in Manhattan to commemorate the Russian Revolution.

Joe was reduced to doing clerical work: he foreclosed mortgages for landlords. He also managed a bail bond agency.

Joe was soon dealt another blow. Leonard's application for admission to City College, Joe's alma mater, was rejected. The humiliating reason: bad grades in geometry, Latin, and German. Joe pulled strings to get Leonard an interview with the college president. Leonard was winning in the interview and was admitted. In later years, Leonard simplified his problems by claiming that he had attended Harvard, where he said that he'd been nothing special as a student.

Life on the City College campus was fervent. The all-male student body was gripped by the political crises of the Depression. Many were fanatically devoted to competing intellectual solutions. They brought lunch from home in brown bags, and the select among them ate in special areas of the cafeteria. Anti-Stalinist students ate in alcove #1; these were socialists and Trotskyists and included Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, and Seymour Melman. In alcove #2 were pro-Stalin students who were at times forbidden by the party to talk to members of #1. After shouting at one another until they were hoarse about how best to save the world, the boys scurried off together to afternoon classes.

Leonard helped to run the exclusive alcove of the chess team. Pure intellection was the credo. Leonard gulped down his mother's jelly sandwiches and supervised concurrent combative games of chess. Tryouts for the chess team, advertised in the school newspaper, consisted of playing three games against Leonard. A sly dig in his yearbook caption hinted at Leonard's lifelong fascination with famous men. "Lenny lives on the strength of his uncle's intelligence and his friends' cynicism."
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2003

    The cover picture was more interesting...

    The Topic of this book was most interesting to me, as an avid reader/historian of the 1960's and Vietnam erra; but it lacked in content! I found the writing to be bland, at times incoherent, and most of all pointless.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)