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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Paperback – August 19, 2008
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“Tom Wolfe is a groove and a gas. Everyone should send him money and other fine things. Hats off to Tom Wolfe!” ―Terry Southern
“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the essential book . . . the pushing, ballooning heart of the matter . . . Vibrating dazzle!” ―The New York Times
“Some consider Mailer our greatest journalist; my candidate is Wolfe.” ―Studs Terkel, Book Week
“A Day-Glo book, illuminating, merry, surreal!” ―The Washington Post
“Electrifying.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“An amazing book . . . A book that definitely gives Wolfe the edge on the nonfiction novel.” ―The Village Voice
“Among journalists, Wolfe is a genuine poet; what makes him so good is his ability to get inside, to not merely describe (although he is a superb reporter), but to get under the skin of a phenomenon and transmit its metabolic rhythm.” ―Newsweek
From the Back Cover
- Publisher : Picador; First edition (August 19, 2008)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 031242759X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312427597
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.56 x 0.76 x 8.21 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #16,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I struggled early with Wolfe's prose. He came off as incredibly ranty, and needlessly verbose, in a sometimes distracting way. He used a lot of hyphens, ellipses, and strange punctuation. (ex: "the lime:::::light::::::"). After some time however I realized that this wasn't how he writes all the time, but rather an attempt to fit his writing to the subject at hand. At first I thought this was somewhat obnoxious, but as I went on I grew more used to it. And besides getting used to it, there were flashes of genuine brilliance in there as well. I mean, some situations were described with such accuracy, insight, and understanding that I was really blown away. These particular portions of the book were, I'm sure, heavily influenced by interviewing primary sources, but regardless Wolfe penned it well.
I was appreciative of the fact that throughout the book Wolfe didn't focus solely on the positive and made it clear that there were conflicting interests among even the Pranksters. When in situations like this not everything is happy happy joy joy let's eat acid and mellow out. Interests don't ALWAYS run in the same direction, and when you have someone like Kesey (who is basically a lodestone of the psychedelic variety) running the show there are bound to be rifts and doubts between people. This is a natural thing and I'm glad Wolfe addressed it.
I think the best thing to say about this book is that it made me think. Long and hard, sometimes. I found myself reading passages from it and then gazing into the distance in some deep contemplation about anything and everything. The book would spark a thought in me that would turn into a full fledged reflection, maybe even far beyond the points that the book brought up in the first place. Good writing does that I suppose.
I will say that I didn't like the way the book ended. It was somewhat anti-climactic in that it sort of just fizzled and went out. Though, I guess you could say the same thing of the Merry Pranksters. There is allegory in that, like so much else in that long, strange trip to go Furthur. COSMO!
An interesting part of world history
for whatever reason, i had always thought this book was fiction (and i don't read much fiction) - but it isn't - the author (Wolfe) adds his own unique stylistic flourish, but otherwise it's a (mostly) 'straight'-up story..
it's not about the summer-of-love hippie era, but rather what could be considered the immediate 'prequel' to those times...in the movie 'Magic Trip', made from the film Kesey & the Pranksters took on their x-country bus expedition, you get to see the Pranksters, and they look far more preppy/beat than they do hippie, but you also see signs of what was (soon) to come in their wake...
Deadheads may be more than a little shaken to realize how close Tom Wolfe was to the Dead, and yet how amazingly little of them appears in this book - i don't think Wolfe was all that into music, at least not 'Dead' music...
Another pretty-much-non appearance is a little group known as the Beatles, who were very much exploding on the music scene just as many of the events of this book were taking place. There's a chapter where the Pranksters actually go to a Beatles show, but they were apparently mostly unimpressed...Beatlemania not their thing...
One major puzzle (for me) is that this book wasn't written by Ken Kesey - the centerpiece (& financier) of the book's events and himself a true-blue published author. That's not a knock on Wolfe, just a bit of weird...how is it possible that Kesey didn't write this book?
a fun read all the same...
Top reviews from other countries
Does Wolfe accurately chronicle that zeitgiest, that era? Not really. He writes interminable pages of detail about the goings on in and around the cult of the Merry Pranksters, for whom Ken Kesey was the leader.
Now I have a considerable respect for Kesey as, along with Timothy Leary, he was a leading figure in the LSD revolution, but Wolfe's work I found first of all extremely parochial - he describes one small corner of the acid scene at that time, and not a typical one - in way that is repetitive and BORING. Afler ploughing through a few chapters of this, I gave up looking for substance, and started skimming the rest of the book to see if things changed. It appeared they didn't so, having paid about ten quid for this "famous classic" I decided that my time is too precious to wade through pages of tedious detail, and tossed it in the recycle bin.
If you want a read about that era that is well written, doesn't SMOTHER you with detail, and makes you LAUGH as well, you should read the classic" Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thmpson, who was also "there", but unlike Wolfe speaks from INSIDE the drug experience, and to an excess which none of us "chemical pioneers" would have dared to venture into.
Who were the real people in Kerouac's On The Road ?
How did The Grateful Dead create such awesome sounds ?
What did the Pranksters think about their meeting with The Hell's Angels ? (Hunter Thompson reported it in his book of the same name - this gives the other side of the same story)
How did The Beatles come up with the idea for their Magical Mystery Tour ?
The answer to these and many more questions about the acid culture of the 60s (when it was a lot safer to pop a tab) can be found in this great read. Highly recommended for anyone who was around at the time and can't remember much about it - also recommended for those who can remember and want a great trip down memory lane.
A psychedelic splurge of a book, covering the acid-soaked start of the California Counterculture, of a type that the Summer of Love represented an end of, not a beginning. As the half-century approaches, read it and enjoy as the past turns into history - and no, they're not the same thing.