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Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) Paperback – May 1, 1996


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Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) + Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña
Price for both: $27.25

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Later Printing edition (May 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140189300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140189308
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is the ultimate novel of college life during the first hallucinatory flowering of what has famously come to be known as The Sixties. Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me follows haunted ur-hippy Gnossos Pappadopoulis upon return to his old university town that's just tilting into a new era, and Gnossos' involvement in a swirl of sixties-style drug taking and the search for love and the meaning of it all. It is a hilarious and haunting book.

About the Author

Richard Fariña was killed in a motorcycle accident in Carmel, California, on April 30, 1966-two days after the publication of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. A posthumous collection of his writings, Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone, was published in 1969. Thomas Pynchon was born in Glen Cove, New York, in 1937. He is the author of The Crying of Lot 49, V., Vineland, Slow Learner, and Mason & Dixon.

Customer Reviews

It was funny, hip and thought provoking.
Fritz Liebhardt
It's still the same fun story that i remembered from long ago and takes me back to much happier times.
Big Tony
I read this book in one sitting the day that it hit the bookstores.
Charles Scott Payne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Guthrie McIllhennon on December 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was compelled to read this book. I had just read David Hajdu's wonderful biographical book, *Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina*, a book that I highly recommend to readers generally interested in Dylan and Baez and the cultural phenomenon of the 60s zeitgeist, or to readers wanting to know more about the U.S.'s fascination with folk music during the late 50s and early 60s.

I'll get to Farina's book in a second, but first I want to say something about Richard Farina. Hajdu's seductive account of Farina--his manic ambitions, peripatetic wanderings, multiple artistic talents, brilliant conversations, spontaneous insights, Lothario lifestyle, and con-artist bravado--compelled me to read Farina's one and only book just to see what he produced as a writer. Similarly, I was compelled to find Farina's two recordings for Vanguard Records (he made two very hip folk records with his wife Mimi Baez).

Farina was a character. He used others callously to gain opportunities for himself. In that respect, he was a lot like Dylan, and other successful artists, letting his self-centered ambitions guide his actions, regardless of how they affected others. Using others as stepping stones, he furthered his career, first as a writer and then as a singer/songwriter and musician, and then again as a writer. Having learned from Hajdu's book about Farina's talent for self-advancement, I was not surprised while reading Farina's novel to see he is uninterested in following established conventions of novel writing for his time. He had his own style. His writing has been called self-absorbed or solipsistic, and those criticisms are true.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By "lexo-2" on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Okay, so it's got an introduction by Thomas Pynchon and it brings back a lot of memories for people-who-were-young-during-the-Sixties, but what about those of us who were "unlucky" enough to be born after that halcyon decade crashed and burned? Is the book really any good? Yes. Farina was, for my money, one of the best writers of his generation, even though one novel and an out-of-print (but, if you can find it, surprisingly good) collection of short pieces isn't much to go on. Although the book is actually set around the turn of the decade, 59-61 or so, there's an eerie impression that it was written twenty years later. For all the drink, drugs and college high-jinks, Death, War and that other lost horseman of the apocalypse, Responsibility, are never far away. The main character, Gnossos Pappadopolis, is a rucksack-wearin' hipster who attempts to maintain his Cool in an atmosphere of student demos and faculty corruption. Farina makes no attempt to sanctify Gnossos, and nor would we want him to, yet we end up sympathising with him. Pynchon's famous jacket quote says that the book comes like "the Hallelujah Chorus being played by 200 kazzo players with perfect pitch" - make that Barber's Adagio being played by a jug band and you're about right.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Richard Farina was a consummate songerwriter, poet and hopeful novelist, until his first and only novel burst onto the scene. Although a later book was released that was a compilation of some short stories, poems, and articles about him, this was the only book he had to stretch toward the literary heavens with. And it was indeed a smash!
Unfortunately, Farina, who was married to Joan Baez' younger sister Mimi, with whom he had forged a folk duo that played and recorded some of his wonderful poetry put to music, never lived to experience his own wild success, as he fell off the back of a motorcycle on the way home from the publication party for this book, and was killed instantly. But the book lives, indeed it flourishes, and the paperback version has never been out of print in all this time, which is ample testimony to its continuing power, verve, and its timeless message, as well as to its beautifully written story.
This is a wonderful book, one that has grown in reputation and stature over the intervening decades, and as another, much younger reviewer commented, it is one for everyone, not just for us greying babyboomers who were lucky enough to have discovered and experienced Richard in his prime. For all of us who have read his work, or listened to his music, or experienced his poetry, or for those of us who were lucky enough to see Mimi and Richard perform at the Newport Folk Festival, one can still hear the faint echoes of their haunting guitar harmonies and vocals, and we truly know that he is still with us. We know that he has truly left us a present, his evocative "reflections in a crystal dream".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J from NY VINE VOICE on August 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Gnossos (i.e.Richard Farina in disguise) is a young man obsessed with vision, women, drugs, and faking his way into college as a means to all these things. His cohorts' names are often as ludicrous as the fruitless, ominous adventures they embark upon; but for some reason I liked this better than Kerouac's "On the Road". There's something more sincere about it. Think of it as "The Basketball Diaries" of an earlier generation with a little more art thrown into it.

We get a sense of Gnossos early in the tale as a young man with something to prove, his philosophy of Exemption--complete individuality, maintaining his cool in the face of extreme adversity--bringing him into closer and closer contact with the authorities as the novel goes on. He consistently defies tradition, morality, and all forms of institutional orthodoxy through pranks, his obsession with criminals and 'degenerates' of every sort, mind-expansion (and, let's face it, simple drug abuse) through hallucinogens. For all his heroic and daring qualities, however, Gnossos is not a nice guy. He screws a girl with a fiancee, unblinkingly telling her that he is wearing a condom when he is not, and handing her an enema bag after he is done. He is abrasive and unnecessarily cruel, giving the finger to every person he sees simply because he fails to get laid in one scene. All the while, though, his desperate search for 'something more' comes across even as his darker and more despicable qualities surface. The ending is shocking and sad, but predictable. Pynchon's introduction is telling about the actual Farina.

One of the only beat novels I'd take the time to read.
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Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
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