Matusow: Boomerang Boy

Matusow: Boomerang Boy

Unless man is to drop to all fours, backbones roundabout need a bit of stiffening. In some measure, perhaps, this generally seedy book (FALSE WITNESS, by Harvey Matusow. New York: Cameron & Kahn. 255 pp. Cloth $3. Paper $1.25) written by a rather  seedy, no longer quite-so-young, young man may supply it. Not, let us hope, with all the results that the publishers, sponsors, and perhaps even author of the book anticipate, but we will come to that later. At the outset it is only fair to give the book its due. I know of nothing else in print which illustrates so graphically the kind of menagerie that is turned loose when society starts persecuting people for what it supposes they think rather than prosecuting them for what they do.

No argument previously advanced for repeal of the Sniith Act (or the equally nefarious Humphrey “Communist Control” Act) is quite so eloquent, it seems to me, as that which emerges from Matusow’s story of how the problem of linking Alexander Trachtenberg with Vishinsky’s book was solved—the account beginning with that weird conference with Roy Cohn in a crowded, overheated sedan parked with the engine running on East River Drive and ending in the U.S. District Court of New York. Or, as an obscene footnote on obscene times, I give you the depressing picture of the President of Queens College mounting the stairs to Matusow’s cold-water Greenwich Village flat and the subsequent lunch at the hamburger joint around the corner. “Here I was, a professional witnessinformer, being sought out by the distinguished president of a college. My self-esteem climbed to new heights.”

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