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August 11, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

SECRET LIFE by Michael Ryan (Vintage: $14, 356 pp.). In this compelling autobiography, the noted poet describes how being molested as a child warped his life. An alcoholic father and a passive mother did nothing to ease the traumatic memories. In his efforts to bury his shame and resentment, Ryan nearly destroyed himself and his career. He became a sexual compulsive, incapable of valuing himself except as an anonymous sexual partner: "It was not that I wasn't the person my friends knew, but I was also someone else, and not just someone else, really someone else, this secret person being the real one. My primary loyalty was to sex." An important book, as people uncover the extent of child abuse in America.

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