I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Life After America: A memoir about the wild and crazy 1960s by Joseph Mark Glazner
Genres: America, Peace, Personal Memoirs
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Life After America is an excellently written, enthralling memoir of a young American war resistor in the late 1960s. On the verge of being called up to fight in Vietnam – a war which he didn’t believe his country had any right or business being in – Joseph Glazner puts his pacifism into practice. He flees to Canada before being drafted. The book relates his interesting, shocking and humorous experiences over the next two years.
It starts with 22-year old Glazner arriving at Montreal airport in November 1967. He is aware that his action would label him “a draft dodger, a traitor, a coward, even a fugitive from the FBI.” He is accepted into the country and granted a work permit.
His desire to write comes out strongly throughout the book. He brings his unfinished novel with him to Canada, starts another, scraps it, and takes various temporary writing jobs. The funniest of these is when he works with a “trash tabloid” creating “credible fake” stories. Headlines he comes up with include “Flying saucer captures ship’s captain” and “Scientists bring 6 men back from dead after 2 weeks.”
I want to hold your hand
It may be the swinging sixties, but all Glazner wants is to settle down in a stable, long-term relationship with a beautiful woman whom he loves. Not that it stops him going through a series of short-term dalliances.
Glazner arrives in Montreal when the linguistic divide is leading to riots, some of which turn violent. Bombings cause chaos and confusion. The Liberal and “ultracool” Pierre Trudeau arises from the flames to become Prime Minister and bring new hope to the country.
The Fool on the Hill
The author always has an eye on happenings on Capitol Hill back in America. He hears of the government’s plans to re-open its old World War Two internment camps and fill them with “every freak, peacenik, hippie and protester to the war.” He is angered by the pro-war stance of President Lyndon Johnson and then later Richard Nixon.
He recounts the momentous events that took place at this time: the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy; the news stories of Neil Armstrong, Charles Manson and Jackie Kennedy. And he keeps up to date with events in Vietnam and the ever-increasing death toll.
The Ballad of John and Yoko
Two-thirds through, just when I started to wonder how many short-term jobs and failed relationships this guy can survive before he goes under, he gets his lucky break. It’s a call from the editor of a Montreal Sunday newspaper.
“John Lennon’s just arrived in town,” he explains. “I’d like you to do a story on Lennon and his thoughts on draft dodgers and their contribution to peace.”
And so begins the wonderful and strong final third of the book, with the author getting close to Lennon and Yoko Ono during their week-long Bed-In in a Montreal hotel. It’s great stuff, involving a stream of celebrities, musicians and poets passing through Glazner’s life and onto the page. Finally, the book ends with Glazner writing his own way into history.
I highly recommend this excellent memoir which wonderfully captures the mood of the 1960s.