by STEPHEN WADE
A Book of Dreams by Peter Reich (Picador 60p); Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie (Picador 75p) Peter Reich, son of the influential psychologist Wilhelm Reich, has written a rare kind of autobiography; it is a story written in a peculiarly dramatic style.
The writer is constantly ,aware • that he has a knowledge of a famous man that is invaluable, in that it is emotional, not purely critical. The technique that he uses is one of personal memory and recreation of vivid scenes with his father.
The result of this is that we see Reich through a child's eyes; he emerges as a universal father-figure because of his bizarre and idiosyncratic views on the modern world.
A Book of Dreams reveals the tenacious and self-willed nature of the scientist who erected near Tucson 'a "cloudbuster" for combating alien aircraft, and who believed that human temperament is healthy if one keeps "a soft belly".
The picture of him in this book is a full, dimensional one; insignificant habits and traits of his character seem to become more meaningful as they are repeated. We must find the reason for this success in the subtle and thoughtful prosestyle of his son.
Bound for Glory is quite a different kind of autobiography. It was first published in 1943, and Woody Guthrie saw another 24 years after this. He . became one of the figures in the developing social patterns of "freedom faith" in the America after the Second World War.
Guthrie's folk-songs started as nationalist lyrics, inspired by America's entry into the war after Pearl Harbour, but the songs did not immediately bring him commercial success.
In this detailed and fascinating book, Guthrie tells us more about his early years than the years of travelling and singing for dimes. The childhood experiences in his home town of Okemah, Oklahoma, are crammed with the hard, dour philosophies which American writers have produced from Twain to Salinger.
It is a familiar territory to us all now, as American films crowd into the cinema, but Woody Guthrie can write lively prose as well as popular songs (he wrote over a thousand); the energy of the man is evident in every page as his story moves from scenes of begging on the road to childhood battles between rival gangs.
This is a life-story that should make one more aware of what it takes to survive in a place like the United States when money and fortune are hard to find, but talent is under every sagebrush.