Gong Ho

Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy

by G. Gordon Liddy
St. Martin's Press, 374 pp., $13.95

G. Gordon Liddy
G. Gordon Liddy; drawing by David Levine

Among all the Watergate confessional literature this book is far and away the best. It is the only entertaining one, the only funny one, although it isn’t always clear when the jokes are intended. By the end, you may still not have formed a settled opinion on whether G. Gordon Liddy is a Nazi sociopath or a case of arrested development, an eleven-year-old boy in a grown man’s body.

Can anyone over the age of eleven write the following lines with any but mirthful intent? “It was no good wishing I had more German and fewer Italian genes; I knew perfectly well that with a powerful enough will I could be as eiskalt as any Teuton. I must train myself so that the more dangerous the situation, the more kaltblütig I became.”

This then is the tale of G. Gordon Liddy’s quest to remake himself into his own 10 by achieving what a juvenile would see as strength of character or will. This he thought to attain and to demonstrate to others by turning himself into a beef flambé from time to time. By his own account he is always getting people to put flaming matches to his hand or arm and then, of course, when they shrink back from his sicko acrobatics, he enjoys himself with a laugh and a snort of superiority:

“Strike a match,” I said to Tex, and locked my eyes into his. He struck it and held it out…I put the unburned outside of my left forearm directly over the flame. As the fire burned through my flesh and melted it back into a blackened depression, a look of horror came over Tex; but he stayed with it. The match burned down and scorched his fingers before he dropped it. I grinned at him as he looked at the burn unbelievingly, then looked ill, got up and left.

Anyone who has ever got to know the kind of adolescent who is ga-ga over martial arts mumbo-jumbo, the Bruce Lee stuff with gongs, mysterious silk curtains, and the warrior-monk wisdom of sacred-secret Eastern brotherhoods will immediately recognize our boy G. Gordon when he describes an “Oriental” he met in prison:

He…told me that he had never imparted such knowledge to an Occidental [bong goes the gong] and…was not sure he ever should…. Finally he spoke. “You are a very violent man. I can see it in your eyes.”

“I control it.”

“You must. If you ever use what I teach you to take advantage of the weak, I’ll find you wherever you are and kill you myself.”

I knew he meant it…. As a child, both his thumbs had been broken deliberately by his father in two places, then tied back so that they grew into curving hooks that were nearly useless for gripping but rigid as steel and…

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