For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Of Herds and Hermits: America’s Lone Wolves and Submissive Sheep
The American Intellectual as Loner and Outcast
  • Terry Reed
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Of Herds and Hermits: America’s Lone Wolves and Submissive Sheep. The American Intellectual as Loner and Outcast
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Celebrated for its commitment to independence and fearless individualism, America in fact dismisses independent thinkers and nonconformists in favor of the team player, the company man, and the go-along-to-get-along mentality. This anti-intellectual mindset despises and discredits those who are solitary and reclusive.

While we look up to literary loners like Poe and Melville and Dickinson, the man in the street is a compulsive joiner of clubs, and herds from university frats to the Order of the Pink Goat.

To the contrary, this book is a paean vigorously endorsing America’s lone wolves, cultural hermits, and all such independent thinkers, solitary and marginalized figures, who are the cultural bedrock of the nation that detests them.


About the Author

Terry Reed (Ph.D., University of Kentucky) spent his college summers sailing Lake Michigan and cycling Europe. Since then, he's been writing, while perfecting the art of bachelordom and occasionally taking time out to keep the world safe for the dry Martini. 

Over the years Terry has contributed over 330 invited articles to magazines and literary journals and has published several books, on topics ranging from Truman Capote to the Indy 500, plus the books Of Herds and Hermits: America’s Lone Wolves and Submissive Sheep (Algora Publishing, 2009), Book of Fools (Algora Publishing, 2013) and Bachelors Abounding (Algora 2016). He claims never to have worked a day in his life. 

About the Book

America is a country of characters, many of them larger than life, many of them shrinking from life, and many tenaciously asserting their individuality even as they succumb to the weight of life.

As the...

America is a country of characters, many of them larger than life, many of them shrinking from life, and many tenaciously asserting their individuality even as they succumb to the weight of life.

As the author observes, 

Asserting one’s identity obviously has its penalties, but to do so is infinitely greater than proceeding to one’s grave without having achieved the fullest of self-realization. As an extraordinary American lyric poet, arguably the best at her art, Emily Dickinson created an enduring place for herself not only in American letters but in world literature. Notwithstanding, her grave is behind a Mobil filling station in Amherst, Massachusetts.

This is a broad-spectrum, academically oriented book, an historical, sociological and ideological examination of the continuing acrimonious mutual conflict waged between America’s loners and joiners.  Divided into five chapters, it is generously researched, provocatively iconoclastic, contrarian and comical.

The initial chapter defines and copiously illustrates the plight of individuality and its collision with collaboration in American life. It then moves from classical and renaissance culture and philosophy into the subject as it is tellingly, abundantly and amusingly illustrated in American literature from Franklin through Emerson, Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Whitman and Twain.

The second chapter advances into the 20th and 21st centuries, exploring the essence of the conflict as illustrated biologically, socially and anecdotally—the object being to elucidate the causes of division between the minority who function well as hermits and the majority that inexorably forms itself into insidious herds.

Chapter 3, “What Price Affiliation?” examines such nefarious matters as Group Think, the rise of corporate culture and trade unionism. The fourth chapter examines even more intensively the intellectual and emotional costs of fraternal life. The fifth, final chapter looks closely at the American intellectual as loner and outcast. 

It’s all good stuff, and an exceedingly provocative good read.


More . . .

Joiners are joiners on the tenuous assumption that they can function better in a mob than as individuals. If they are uncertain, unimaginative, unoriginal, unmotivated and unassertive, then they have ostensibly made the correct procedural choice. They can always be under the thumb of someone who is certain, imaginative, original, motivated and assertive. Most joiners travel in packs and are remarkably other-directed. Without human support from all sides, they are lost....

Joiners are joiners on the tenuous assumption that they can function better in a mob than as individuals. If they are uncertain, unimaginative, unoriginal, unmotivated and unassertive, then they have ostensibly made the correct procedural choice. They can always be under the thumb of someone who is certain, imaginative, original, motivated and assertive. Most joiners travel in packs and are remarkably other-directed. Without human support from all sides, they are lost. There is nothing wrong with this, providing that consent to living their lives as followers. ...

Living alone tends to reinforce and protect oneself against virulent invitations to occasions that one would just as soon avoid, nay, desperately avoid. Garbo, incidentally, reportedly said, “I vant to be alone,” whereas she actually said, “I vant to be let alone.” This was merely a throwaway line in a film called Grand Hotel (1932); Miss Garbo may have meant neither one. She also said, “Give me a viskey,” but she may not have meant that, either. Whether Miss Garbo was a loner, we may never know; at least she portrayed one in the movies.

But when true lone wolves say they want to be alone, by George, they mean it. Consequently, they evade such trying occasions as dinner parties, weddings and funerals. Dinner parties are particularly difficult, because they place more pressure upon one’s sociability and time.

Dinner parties demand about six labor-intensive hours, roughly distributed between the pre-prandial, prandial, and post-prandial. It can be, and usually is, an enervating six hours. One is pressed into the company of people who do not interest him on any of multiple levels. Lone wolves understand that it is far better to beg off or even ignore the invitation, rather than to be the first guest to vanish at a convenient moment. If one decides to leave the occasion when everyone else does, he is in danger of sentencing himself to more dinner parties.

Another tactic, and a last ditch one at that, is not to live up to one’s advance billing as a dinner guest. That is a regrettable way to have one’s name deleted from guest lists, but it is at least effective.

One can accept a dinner invitation and then suffer through all six programmed hours of it; one can accept the invitation and leave undetected after ten minutes; one can simply ignore the invitation; one can invent some excuse for not accepting it; one can explain to the hostess that he has, alas, no social life (something that Max Beerbohm in Zuleika Dobson (1911) called “that admirable fidelity to social engagements which is one of the virtues implanted in the members of our aristocracy”) and has furthermore no contemplated any immediate plans to create one. Should worse come to worst, one must remember never to wear a coat or other outer garment to a dinner party, for fear that it will be carried for safe keeping to a room and will later be awkward to find in order to effect a hasty but surgically precise exit. Hosts have been known to raise a sort of good-natured fuss for an early departer who tries to find his coat in a room littered with other coats. One slightly amusing activity for a reluctant guest is to vanish in such a way that the other guests are unaware of his departure for minutes, hours, or possibly ever. In the meantime, the departed one is quite far down the road, so to speak.


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Pages 220
Year: 2009
LC Classification: HM1276.R44 2008
Dewey code: 302.5'40973--dc22
BISAC: PHI026000 PHILOSOPHY / Criticism
BISAC: PHI000000 PHILOSOPHY / General
BISAC: HIS054000 HISTORY / Social History
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-684-0
Price: USD 23.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-685-7
Price: USD 33.95
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