The Lending Library
I'm not certain how Eric Hoffer's "True Believer" ended up as a must read when I was devouring books recommended to me as a young reader. Frank did thumb through my copy at the house, casually, without great interest it seemed. I was interested in the concept of "mass movements" and hoped to gain some understanding of them. Though at that time (as now), I was quite impressed by Hoffer's achievements, that he as a longshoreman who also labored as a migrant worker, chose to examine such a thesis. Hoffer was presented as an autodidact who had a library card in every town he stayed in as an itinerant worker. He was free of formal education due to childhood blindness and also free of any enrollment in a formal religion. Those are two huge influences in most everyone else's life as I saw it. Hoffer was a blue collar intellectual, an outsider, as I later came to understand the term. He was of the working class and indeed a member of the underclass, and yet had much respect for both, he didn't want to leave them behind. Given my age, I had to look up the word autodidact for definition and understanding. Later, I thought it was cute the way the right wing praised him so,as if they were finally able to find a longshoreman they could like.
Frank sought to gain understanding as well, and was a reader back when I knew him. A casual discussion of the Lenny Bruce album we had listened to, followed by tales held alive in current popular memory of the official harassment the comedian had faced and endured as the result of his shows, all led to a trip to the Claremont newstand, which offered at least the possibility of knowledge for a few dimes on the counter. Frank, my sister, and I shared this book (this very 1957 edition) as well as a small bit of discussion about it, though none of us had read any of the great literature used therein as examples at the time of our reading this (I thumbed quickly through it) and given my age at the time, the topic was genuinely quite beyond my understanding.
Exclaimer! I have just this instant discovered, to my absolute amazement, the Kronhausens were name checked on Freak Out! Frank must have revisited this volume. I feel the need to point out that Frank was thoughtful and sincere in his approach when pursuing an avenue his that piqued his curiosity. He did what most of an intellectual bent did to engage with ideas and enhance knowledge, he read.
In this same early era, c. 1963, "The Dictionary of American Slang" (1960) was considered controversial and ordered to be withdrawn from the Claremont High School library shelves because Max Rafferty, California superintendent of public instruction in 1963, and his supporters found over 150 "dirty" passages in the book.
(To her credit, the school librarian unknown to anyone left the book in its place on the shelf because there was genuinely no interest in the book. The kids didn't even know it was there, and she pointed out to the officials who asked that not so much as one person had ever so much as filled out a card to pull the book out for library reading. So this was banned, but it didn't much matter anyway.)
(Thumb through Hoffer's True Believer here