Such images convey little of the character of the individual and everything about the sexual fantasies of the times. They are different from the stark celebration of the male body one sees in Avedon's photograph of Nureyev, standing alone, confronting the photographer-viewer with a touch of youthful defiance born of an awareness of his own beauty. He is paired on the facing page with Weatherman Bernadine Dohrn, who is encased in black leather and wool but conveys an identical expression. This linkage of opposites by facial expression is repeated throughout "The Sixties." An unidentified woman carrying a newspaper announcing the death of President Kennedy mirrors the solemnity of Bob Dylan walking in the rain; a freckled boy-soldier carrying a massive carbine at Fire Base Charlie in South Vietnam has the same mouth as Joan Baez, whose dreamy image faces his.
What the photographs of naked bodies possess, in contrast to classic nudes, is hair. Abundant hair in the case of men, accentuated in the darkroom. "Hair," Berger writes, "is associated with sexual power, with passion," traditionally the properties of men; hence the Renaissance convention of painting women without body hair, thereby retaining their virginal character for the male spectator. In "The Sixties," hair is frankly associated with passion, in the close-up of Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky kissing; and with power, when a satyr-like Julian Beck, director of The Living Theater, twists through a knot of naked torsos.
What holds all these varied images together, apart from thematic groupings (the Chicago 7 Conspiracy Trial of 1968-69; South Vietnam, 1971) and expressive linkages, are shocking juxtapositions. Andy Warhol's scarred torso faces the solarized head of John Lennon. A familiar photograph of the American Nazi Party with leader George Lincoln Rockwell is followed by a youthful James Baldwin, a loving portrait of an early colleague of Avedon's made in 1945. Anjelica Huston romping with a photographer outside a ruined castle in Ireland segues into the fierce gaze of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, her handsome 70-ish face a study in self-possession.
"You know, a lot of the Catholic Workers go up in the world. And a lot of them go down in the world--to jail," Day tells Arbus. "I must say I have much more esteem for those who keep trying to get lower. . . . We must continue to fill up the jails. Breaking the law is the only way of really testing it."
One rarely hears such voices today, and their presence in the book separates it from typical sendups of the '60s as a time of youthful self-indulgence. Pacifist Dave Dellinger, elder statesman of the Chicago 7, who appears in Avedon's trial lineup in his usual suit and tie, explains why he no longer fears prison. Jailed for draft resistance before World War II, he helped organize a strike on behalf of black convicts who were being mistreated. This led to a midnight confrontation with the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, who made it known that unless he stopped his activities, he would not get out of prison alive. After a few days in solitary confinement without food, Dellinger realized this was true. "And I just faced it," he says, "and decided--not to sound heroic because I wasn't heroic--that I couldn't back down. That I would die there." It was as if he "died [then] psychologically and spiritually" and thus couldn't worry about the threat of prison in 1969: "It seems to be kind of an acting-out of a drama that I made a decision on a long time ago."
Abbie Hoffman, demure in the Chicago tableau, outrageous in a solo portrait, bathes Arbus in rhetoric: "[G]oing to jail or dying. . . . Both times you're removed from the street. . . . Dying makes a better movie but . . . what's the difference?" Yet he gives voice to a partisan view that remains poorly understood when he states: "I'm not against the war in Vietnam. I'm for the National Liberation Front winning." This was more than bravado. Commenting recently in The New York Times about why he wrote "The Price" in 1968, Arthur Miller states that as a play about the perils of forgetting, it was among other things a secret response to the Vietnam War: "As the corpses piled up, it became cruelly impolite if not unpatriotic to suggest the obvious, that we were fighting the past; our rigid anti-communist theology, born of another time two decades earlier, made it a sin to consider Vietnamese Reds as nationalists rather than as Moscow's and Beijing's yapping dogs."
In this sense, Hoffman, along with Dohrn, who ratchets the argument higher--"Killing a cop just because he's a cop, that'll happen. And that should happen"--are children enacting a domestic drama of outrage and revenge over the deadly sins of their fathers. Not their biological fathers, the subject of biography, but the nation's fathers, an unexamined subject of political history.