"Eric Hoffer: An American Odyssey." by Calvin, Tomkins

Posted on Sun 25 January 2009 in ClubReading

Eric Hoffer was born in 1902 in New York. His parents were immigrants and had settled in the Bronx a couple of years before his birth. His mother died when he was seven. Eric Hoffer went blind shortly after his mothers death. His sight returned when he was 15 and because of his disability he never attended school.

After regaining his sight, Eric Hoffer began reading and studying on his own. His father died in 1920 and the woman who had cared for him since his mothers death left America. Eric bought a bus ticket and moved across the country to Los Angeles and for the next 10 years worked as a migrant worker following crops and work up and down California. During this time Eric Hoffer continued to read and learn.

Eventually Mr. Hoffer began to put his thoughts to paper. He developed a methodology where he studied a subject until he was able to put his thoughts down into a simple sentence or two which he called his aphorisms.

In 'Eric Hoffer, An American Odyssey', Tomkins records conversations he had with Eric Hoffer over a two year period of time. The stories are personal and expose much of the man behind Hoffer's popular philosophies. This is an outstanding introduction to Eric Hoffer and his thoughts.

One of my favorite of Hoffer's aphorisms is included in the back of the book:

Man's thoughts and imaginings are the music drawn from the taut strings of the soul. The stretching of the soul that produces music is the result of a pull of opposites -- opposite bents, attachments, yearnings. Where there is no polarity -- where energies flow smoothly in one direction -- there can be hustle and noise but no music.