65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Wanderer (Paperback)
I bought my copy of "The Wanderer" when it was first published in 1964, because Sterling Hayden was one of my favorite actors. I especially enjoyed his work in The Asphalt Jungle, Johnny Guitar, The Killing, Suddenly, and Terror in a Texas Town, among others. Now, 40 years later I have decided to reread the book, and I forgot how good it was. The central theme of the book is Hayden's escape from Hollywood, with his young children in tow, on the schooner for which the book is named. He made this voyage to the south seas against orders of the court, who considered it too dangerous for the children. As he tells of this less than idyllic voyage, he intersperses fragments of his life, concentrating mostly on his late teens and twenties when he was a working seaman. He is very stylistic in his writing, and sometimes his switching from first to third person narrative is quite jarring, but the effect is emotionally charging. As he ages into his thirties and beyond, Sterling finds his life falling apart. He becomes a Hollywood heart throb and detests his work and lifestyle. He becomes a Communist for a few months, but never really gets with the program, and to save his hated career, he goes before the HUAC and bares his soul and names names, an action he quickly and forever regretted. He seesaws between impotency and affairs, he can't communicate with the women he loves, he struggles with no notable success with psychotherapy, he finds his life adrift with no anchor in sight. All of these travails he lays out with such frankness, I felt embarassed for him. Hayden holds nothing back as he displays his warts and finds no joy in his life, except with his children. Does he simply settle, or does he come to some kind of compromise he can live with? I hope it's the latter, because after all his trials he deserves it. But I feel it is the former. Yet, shortly after the book is completed, he films one of his most important roles as Jack Ripper in "Dr. Strangelove." I won't wait 40 years to read this book again.