The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 27 August 2004

Famous Long Ago

My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service

by Raymond Mungo

Late in 1967, young Raymond Mungo, fed up with the staid world of his educational past in Boston, moved to Washington, DC, where, with Marshall Bloom, he founded the Liberation News Service. The Service acted as a sort of Associated Press for the New Left, progressives and radicals of the late 1960s, distributing its reports to alternative newspapers all across the country. This is Mungo's side of that story, as written in the middle of 1969, so the story is immediate and still in a state of flux. This gives the book a jittery energy and a sense of expectation that comes with knowing now what came next in the political and cultural landscape of the time. So, while being a memoir, this book escapes much of the second-guessing and glossing that one written many years later might contain. Mungo cautions the reader, early on, that this story can by no means be complete, and that no lessons should be gleaned from it. Yet there is much to discover here. We read of the conflicts between the varying angles of the youth movement, violent, revolutionary, cultural. There is cultural ambivalence, really, in the state of the city of Washington at the time, and its poverty and violence, something which the largely white youth movement could hardly solve. Mungo seems to have learned much in this short time, and weaves away from any hardline ideology. The ideology comes raging forth in 1968, though, and finally forces a bitter split in the LNS later that year. Mungo and his allies retreat to farms in Vermont and Massachusetts, where another story entirely unfolds (See also: What the Trees Said). Mungo goes on to tell more of that story in a later book. What remains here is fragmentary and energetic, though, and remains an interesting historical relic.

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Also by Mungo: [Total Loss Farm]

[Other books on the 60s & Counterculture]