Wild Thingn’ by Gregory McNameenIron Johnnby Robert BlynReading, Massachusetts:nAddison Wesley;n268 pp., $18.95nAnew kind of animal stalks the landnthese days. If you listen closely,nyou can hear its strange call: chestthumpingnroars alternating with keeningnwails and abundant sniffles. And if younlook carefully, you’ll doubtless soon spotnone, for they clone faster than jackrabbits.nThis new critter is now allnaround us, and the poet Robert Bly hasnprovided a field manual to aid in itsnidentification.nThe animal in question is the NewnAmerican Male (1990’s), a dusted-offnGary Cooperesque stalwart (1950’s)nwho’s not afraid to cry in publicn(1970’s), a thirtysomething hybridn(1980’s) who combines the sensibilitiesnof Alan Alda, John Wayne, and Pee-nWee Herman. He travels in packs. Hencan often be found in woodland retreats,npounding on tom-toms (1960’s)nand weeping over his failure to connectnwith his taciturn father. Our shellshockednBoy Scout likes to call himself an”wild man,” to doff his cordovan wingtipsnand grey suit of a weekend andnroam the dark forests, barefoot, Tshirted.nRobert Bly, a poet and translator ofngreat distinction, has at the age of 65ndiscovered that he, too, is a wild man. InnIron John — its tide is taken from anEuropean rite-of-passage folktale thatncan be found in the pages of thenBrothers Grimm and, in far too manynpermutations, in the book undernreview — Bly laments the rise of thenmodern pasty, malleable, “soft man,”npounded into shape by the commissarsnof modern feminism, still inclined ton42/CHRONICLESnuse phrases like “let me share yournspace” and “I can relate to that.”nThese men, Bly observes,nare not happy. You quicklynnotice the lack of energy innthem. They are life-preservingnbut not exactly life-giving.nIronically, you often see thesenmen with strong women whonpositively radiate energy.nNo more namby-pambyism, Bly urges;nno more unseemly displays of deferencenand accommodation to these iron maidens.nIn his cri de coeur, he insteadndemands that all real men find theirn”interior warriors” and make themselvesnfit to take up long-rusty Excalibursnand sally forth into battle.nInside every man, it seems, there’s anKing Arthur screaming to get out. Blynaims to spring him through a series ofnpop-myth recipes for success, completenwith archetypal kings and queens,ndragons, naiads and dryads, caverns,nand sweat lodges. (To read Ely’s pages,nyou’d think Joseph Campbell had returnednfrom the dead for one last flingnwith the gods.) But, Bly urges, let usnnot allow our Arthur to degenerateninto some modern Conan. We’ll donthe ordering at dinner, thank you, butnon occasion we’ll also let our datesnselect the topic of conversation.nThe befuddled are everywhere legion,nevidenced by the overflowingnshelves devoted to self-help panaceasnand New Age mysticism, to cures fornevery psychic ailment real and imagined,nto every social risk. Iron ]ohn isnmeant for these survivors of the I’mokay-you’re-okayngeneration, but it isnnowhere near as obnoxious as the runnof the literature, and Robert Bly doesnhave his points. Few thoughtful people,nafter all, would argue that these arenhappy days, and there are far too manynmen — and women — out in the heartlessnworld who lack any emotionalnanchorage whatever; we would surelynall do well to learn how to grapple withnour emotions more effectively. If becomingn”wild” and taking up thensword of the samurai within us yields anbit more joy in men’s lives, if it contributesnto some truce in the war betweennthe sexes, then, as silly as Iron Johnnseems, Robert Bly’s earnest essay willnhave done its job.nBut I suspect that it will not, andnthat the New American Male will soonnnnbe driven into extinction, to be storednin history’s attic next to platform shoesnand mood rings. The interested readernwould do better to skip Iron John andninstead invest in a copy of MuddynWaters’ blues stomper “MannishnBoy,” a T-shirt, and a six-pack. Suitablynarmed, he can then head to thenwoods to commune with his innernnature — if, that is, he can find anmoment’s solace among the hordes ofnthis brooding new beast.nGregory McNamee is a freelancenwriter and author living in Tucson,nArizona.nMysterious Islandnby Russell KirknEighty Acres: Elegy for anFamily Farmnby Ronald JagernForeword by Donald HallnBoston: Beacon Press;n257 pp., $15.00nMissaukee Gounty, in the heart ofnthe lower peninsula of Michigan,nis perfectly flat and perfectiy rural,nits farms possessed by Dutch Galvinists.nWhen first I, aged 17, traveled acrossnthe county, every farmhouse and everynbarn was ornamented by conspicuousnlightning rods, the rustics having beennduped by some ingenious salesman.nWhen I inquired after the countyncourthouse (seeking for a county roadmap),neverybody directed me to “thencountry barns.” “Beast is more thannman in Meath,” the Irish say. So it is, ornwas, in Missaukee Gounty.nDr. Ronald Jager, sometime professornof philosophy at Yale, was reared onnthe eighty acres of a subsistence farm innthat simple and honest county; he wasnsent to study at Galvin Gollege, and thatnmade all the difference; he and hisnbrothers, once grown, never followednthe plow. But he is blessed with totalnrecall of his boyhood. His little book, atnonce realistic, amusing, and pathetic,nadds mightily to the corpus of literaturenof what we may call the NorthernnAgrarian School. In several ways itnparallels Gurtis Stadtfeld’s From thenLand and Back (Scribner’s, 1972), ofnwhich the setting is Michigan’s Me-n