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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searching for God from suburban Boston, October 31, 2011
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This review is from: Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood (Paperback)
This book takes on a lot: in part an engaging memoir of a suburban misfit driven to near self-destruction by his obsessive desire to uncover the Truth behind "behind the veil" of everyday existence; an entertaining look at the post-hippy "me generations'" similar quest - from Leonard Nimoy on "In Search Of", to the explosion of interest in UFOs, tarot, crystals and new forms of spirituality that made up the New Age revolution; a primer on the evolution of psychedelic culture and communication, and how it could be found, if looked for, by simply digging down a layer under the surface of mainstream media (e.g. "comix" as opposed to comic books etc.); and a fascinating look at the history of scientific (and quasi scientific) attempts to understand the significance of psychedelic drugs (or "entheogens", as we learn some researchers call them in an attempt to leave behind some heavy cultural baggage).

What emerges is very entertaining (I read it in a day) and very informative (I learned, for example, about a roomful of non-drug-taking divinity students in the basement of a nearby university chapel on Good Friday tripping their brains out on psilocybin as part of a research project). Some of the expected players make an appearance (Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey etc.) but, particularly the former, emerge as figures who probably did more harm than good to their ultimate quest of "turning on" America, and bringing up about a deep shift in our collective consciousness. More interesting, to me at least, were some of the lesser-known players - the author in many cases interviewed people at the true heart of things for this book.

Also fascinating are the descriptions of mini universes of fellow misfits he navigates (from Radio Shack to Boston Common) populated by unusual characters (I think of the man in the park, almost invisible to most passers by, who had the thoughts, calculations and dreams of those who passed by him literally written/drawn on his coat). This is, however, not at all a romanticized vision of a psychedelic quest - the darkness, paranoia, and destructive side of taking powerful drugs, outside of an appropriate "set and setting", are bravely laid bare in a very personal way.

In a book with as broad a scope as this one - from punks, to D&D to Cagney and Lacey and beyond - there will be elements that are more interesting than others; the careful descriptions of the various post-60s psychedelic bands will interest others more than it interested me. For me the best parts were the shifting back and forth between the personal - days and nights in the harvard square pit, moshing with fellow punks, the ecstatic and intricately described tripping scenes - to the examination of the broader search others had attempted before the author, the often conflicting conclusions they came to, and the attempts of "serious" researchers to get to the bottom of the psychedelic question. If this sounds like your cup of tea, I highly recommend this book.
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