Nat(han Irving) Hentoff John Weston - Essay

John Weston

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Nat Hentoff's "I'm Really Dragged But Nothing Gets Me Down" treats an important dilemma: how best can a young man serve his country and himself and retain his sense of morality? Jeremy Wolf, 18, and his friends must face the issues of the draft. Refusing to register means a prison sentence, a loss of five years out of life; accepting a draft card, in their view, means accepting a sellout to murder; capitalizing on their opportunity for deferment by attending college means that the dumb and the poor must take their places. Mr. Hentoff attempts to present all sides of the question, concluding with the only unarguable decision—that, through education (in this case, draft counseling) each potential draftee must make his own peace and that a larger peace begins at the one-to-one human level.

Although timely and important in theme, the book falls short as a novel for basic reasons. It lacks driving power; it becomes, instead of a story that moves the reader, a philippic that instructs. The welding of a moral and philosophic discussion to a dramatic form is never easy to do but done well that is precisely what makes great books great. Because the surface of this one remains so flat, the characters so blurred, the arguments so objective, the impact of Mr. Hentoff's theme is largely ineffective. (pp. 2, 66)

John Weston, "Hang-ups Do Happen," in The New York Times Book Review, Part II (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 3, 1968, pp. 2, 66.∗