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Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000 Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743230116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743230117
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,001,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Martin Torgoff came of age just about the same time as the drug boom, a circumstance that informs his overview of America's "Great Stoned Age." Chronicling the irrepressible onslaught of mind-altering substances from the end of World War II through the close of the century, Torgoff (whose previous publishing efforts have centered around rockers Elvis Presley and John Cougar Mellencamp) intersperses the personal with the historical. Laying the groundwork with his own recollections of indulgence beginning in the late 1960s, the author flashes back to the Beat era, which he asserts opened the door for all that followed. Interviews with the obscure and celebrated add color and detail to the chronicle. Here's Herbert Huncke, the unapologetic hustler and heroin addict who lurked on the periphery of '50s bohemian scene and turned up as a character in William Burroughs' pulp memoir Junkie. Into the 1960s, there's acid guru Timothy Leary, poet Allan Ginsburg, record producer Paul Rothchild, Woodstock MC Wavy Gravy, and others caught up in a wave of revolutionary experimentation and excess. The '70s leads to the cocaine craze (embodied here by party girl Suzie Ryan), which begets drug wars (with plenty of casualties on both sides), Just Say No, the crack epidemic, and rave culture. While Torgoff's tome is too capricious to serve as the final word on America's drug obsession, it's eminently readable and entertaining, thanks to its expansive, pop-culture-informed tone. There's an almost insane momentum to this tale, with dozens of astonishing twists and turns. Imagine Jimmy Carter's drug czar, Dr. Peter Bourne, snorting cocaine at a party thrown the by pot legalization group NORML. Then picture George H.W. Bush's point man on drugs, William Bennett, remarking in an interview that it would be "morally plausible" to behead drug dealers. So much for moderation. --Steven Stolder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Torgoff challenges what he calls America's "cultural amnesia" about recreational drug use during the last half-century, staking out a rhetorical middle ground that acknowledges both the pervasive cultural influence and the costs of overindulgence. The problem with his panoramic account is its focus on celebrities, especially among the creative classes, whose stories have already been told. That makes for a series of often stunning imagesâ€"Charlie Parker in the grip of heroin addiction, Wavy Gravy confronting Charles Manson, John Belushi snorting cocaine on live TVâ€"especially given Torgoff's skills as an interviewer (and the good fortune of getting to talk with key figures like Herbert Huncke and Timothy Leary before their deaths), but at the expense of discovering what happened once various drugs made their way to ordinary folks in the suburbs. Torgoff (who won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for American Fool, about John Cougar Mellencamp) does touch on that by opening with his own early drug use on '60s Long Island and closing with a poignant encounter with an aged homeless junkie, and the book could have used more stories like that. The discussion of the government's "war on drugs" is somewhat scattershot; though detailed on President Carter's flirtation with relaxing the laws and the militancy of the "Just Say No" era, there's nothing about Nixon's policiesâ€"a particularly stunning omission since the DEA was created during his administration. Torgoff creates compelling juxtapositions, and he's not afraid to ask difficult questions, but he hasn't truly broken new ground.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm reading this book a bit at a time. Each part is like a little history lesson - full of specific people, places and things that I've heard a lot of stories about - usually from folks who didn't have a great deal of clarity when they were either living through them OR speaking about them.
Torgoff has that clarity and there's humor in his prose that gives it a certain kind of bop. Yes, it's a long book. Most people who write long books these days write them as if they are "afraid of going to hell" for having done so - there's no ease, things get really claustrophobic in such books. Torgoff sails through this material not so much like a man who's afraid of going to hell...but as a man who's been there.
There's a kind of ease, a kind of compassion and a sense of spaciousness to Torgoff's style in this work. The length of the book doesn't seem that long. Maybe it would SEEM LONGER if Torgoff attempted to adapt his style to the demands of the market...some kind of a weekly reader version of the lifes, legends, loves (and drugs) of the times he's telling us about. Thank GOD he didn't cave into that.
Can't Find My Way Home makes me want to listen to a hell of a lot of music, see some movies again and read more books about the myriad folks who inhabit this book.
I see this book as a definite college text for classes focusing on the the history of jazz, rock and roll, film and literature in the last sixty years of American culture.
The fact that Torgoff weaves his own story into this piece communicates to me that he's not of those people who goes around chanting phrases like "If you remember the 60's you weren't there".
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book--the history of our time, the author's insights and synthesis. It's wildly affecting and entertaining, and it's bigger than what it seems to be about. Torgoff has a touch of Balzac in him, that's for sure. He gets the joke, but he also captures the loss and pathos. I especially liked his own story--he wove it into the narrative in a really detached way that made it all the more affecting. I stayed up all night reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Antonio Loret de Mola on November 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent and very detailed history of drugs and its impact on our society. The book is thoroughly researched. It's entertaining and very readable. It's not only a review of the history of drugs in American society but also covers a number of individuals and the effect narcotics had on them. I found it fascinating and scary. Having lived through those turbulent times it brought back many memories.

Pictures and a summary of the cast of characters would have enhanced the book. All in all a good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Czar of Arkansas on February 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000 by Martin Torgoff, is a history of drug use and abuse in America during the second half of the twentieth century. If you've ever seen the VH-1 documentary "The Drug Years," then you'll be familiar with the author--he's interviewed several times, and CFMWH really forms the structure of the documentary series.

CFMWH starts with the drug scene in the 1950s Beat Generation, where Bird Parker slowly destroys himself with heroin and Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg delve deep into marijuana. From there the Torgoff takes us into the 60's, hippies, and the Summer of Love. The 1970's discuss the club scene and the emergent drug smuggling from South America. The 80's and 90's see the rise of gangs, and the emergence of Ecstasy.

Torgoff's prose is highly readable, and CFMWH is a page turner in an odd sort of way. Torgoff's greatest achievement is one that's hard to gain when writing on a topic like illegal drug use: being evenhanded but not necessarily neutral. He's got his own story of addiction to tell, but it doesn't bleed into the narrative. Some of his characters make it; some don't. All are changed. CFMWH is an attempt to answer "what did it all mean?" We may never know, but Torgoff's book tries to guide us through the experiences of those who took the long, strange trip.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By firesprings on August 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to read this book for a Sociology class studying addiction. It was actually a quick read for the length because the stories usually grabbed me. It helps I was an older student and familiar with the cast of characters that are talked about. I know some of the students struggled with this book because they didn't understand the relevance of certain people (which made me feel older). It does tend meander a bit here and there, which can make certain parts of the book drag, but overall this is definitely an interesting read and outlook on the pervasiveness of drugs in our society.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eir M. on October 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
Whether we choose to admit it or not, drugs in America have both shaped and destroyed aspects of our culture. From jazz to the Reagan administration, and later, to prescription drugs, Martin Torgoff's text gives a comprehensive overview of how drugs have impacted each era of twentieth century American history. At times exciting, and frequently tragic, this book is a wonderful guide the counterculture movement.
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