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Timothy Leary: A Biography Hardcover – June 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Greenfield, award-winning biographer of Jerry Garcia and Bill Graham, paints another '60s portrait in this scathing account of counterculture hero and LSD guru Timothy Leary (1920–1996). Largely based on interviews with Leary's friends and acquaintances, this book offers a highly detailed and decidedly ugly portrayal of a pathologically selfish, narcissistic yet complex man who lacked basic qualities such as empathy and compassion. Worse, Leary, the cynosure of the psychedelic movement, who preached the power of LSD and other drugs to expand human consciousness and foster change, fails to exhibit the capacity for inner growth. Greenfield's gaze alights as much on the quotidian (who cooked what for dinner when) as on the sensational (drugs, sex, Black Panthers, parades of famous figures like Allen Ginsberg and Abbie Hoffman). Despite the visceral dislike for Leary that readers are likely to develop, many will be intrigued by the unlikely course of his life, which took him from a prestigious position as a Harvard lecturer to the California penal system, and later to work as a government informer in an Algerian compound with Eldridge Cleaver . Leary ends up a dissipated, broken man, who remains self-promoting enough to suggest, in 1996, that he would kill himself while logged on to yet another new phenomenon, the Internet. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* After launching his pioneering and brazen inquiry into the effects of psychedelic drugs at Harvard, Leary (1920-96) became the reigning psychedelic guru, declaring, "You must turn on, tune in, and drop out." In the first comprehensive biography of this notorious and puzzling figure, Greenfield trenchantly analyzes Leary's pseudospirituality, egoism, thrill seeking, strange brew of naivete and wiliness, and mind-boggling ability to ingest astronomical amounts of LSD, all the while meticulously and incredulously chronicling Leary's epic misadventures, including masterminding communal chaos at an estate in Millbrook, New York; a daring prison break; and exile in Algiers under the baleful eye of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. Charismatic and cunning, lacking in compassion and common sense, Leary--the emperor of acid, the jet-setting court jester of the counterculture, and an Elmer Gantry-like evangelist in the church of self-indulgence--lived at least nine lives. Greenfield masterfully shapes an unwieldy amount of astounding, often troubling material so that both the absurdity and tragedy of Leary's life come clear. A veritable who's who of the age of Aquarius and a real page-turner, Greenfield's cornerstone portrait of the acidhead who would be king brilliantly illuminates the paradoxes of the psychedelic age. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Worst of all, Leary's endearing sense of humor, which comes out in every book and appearance and book, is absent from this book and Leary as writer and intellectual (his main appeal to many) is largely ignored, as if Greenfield could not manage to rise above day to day details.
Greenfield is to Leary what John Symonds was to Aleister Crowley-- both men making money by writing hatchet jobs on controversial figures.
John Hitchen's I Have America Surrounded: A Biography of Timothy Leary is a much better introduction to Leary.