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Preview — The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
"An American classic" (Newsweek) that defined a generation. “An astonishing book” (The New York Times Book Review) and an unflinching portrait of Ken Kesey, his Merry Pranksters, and the 1960s.
The trolley glided along the tracks. Hovering, floating, flying. The ticket checker, his name tag read Mitchell, had the head of a warthog. “Feed the bee”, he said. :::: “What?” Jeff seemed trapped in a powerful time space vortex. His hands looked rubbery, like Plastic. Plastic Man. But drawn by a meth freak. A bunny, half-gold, half-silver, Day Glo halo, blood dripping from its fangs. “Feed the bee”, she said. “Feed it now! It’s hungry.” Jeff turned to the other passen ...more
What Ken Kesey is is a prick, so let's not get any delusions about that.
But most great leaders are pricks, and the case Wolfe is making in this masterful biography is that Kesey, in his way, was a great leader. His early days on the Furthur bus, discovering LSD and inventing the psychedelic movement, come off like Stanley or Shackleton: explorers in new lands, leading a ragtag but brave band of adventurers into dangerous frontier territ ...more
"A person has all sorts of lags built into him, Kesey is saying. Once, the most basic, is the sensory lag, the lag between the time your senses receive something and you are able to react. One-thirtieth of a second is the time it takes, if you are the most alert person alive, and most people are a lot slower than that.... You can't go any faster than that... We are all doomed to spend the rest of our lives watching a movies of our lives - we are always ac ...more
In the 60s he teased through his hat, to great acclaim ;
his liberal dose of saucy irreverence bursts with a brisk
vein of low humor. He injected the comic strip into daily
journalism-scribbles and it became his pet province. Meanwhile,
he remains a sort of modest church lady. Some of his pieces
are swell; he's at his best when he's at his waggiest (for he
never reaches wit). As a New Journalist, he dares to probe
inner thoughts of others; be ...more
Now, forty some years after publication, Electric is a bit of an historical curiosity. As much as the writings of Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert or Alan Watts, it substantially contributed to the creation in the public's eye of the counter-culture. As a kid I would ...more
He came to speak to my class in one of those rare "Oh wow, Columbia Journalism might be worth it" moments. Inexplicably, he started in on a lengthy out-of-context run about how the New York Sun was a disgrace of a newspaper. I happened to be working there as a reporter at the time (and hating it), it was one of those surreal coincidences that seem to happen to me on an eerily regular basis. He asked for questions, my hand shot up first, and ...more
"While the book doesn’t hold answers, it is a great read for anyone who has ever been part of a subculture. It puts the story out there in a way that is honest and fair, showing not just the idealism, but also the grime and the violence and the difficulties of rebellion against the norm and the inherent dangers in basing a movement on a mind altering drug. It might be easy to reject the story as a tale of mistaken adven ...more
In The Right Stuff, he prefers Yeager and the test pilots to the astronauts who don't get to really fly their capsules.
In From Bauhaus to Our House, he loathes the European modernists (Mies et al.) and he likes FLW and Saarinen.
In The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, he sides with Kesey and the Pranksters with their undoctrinaire deployment of LSD and technology against other psy ...more
I read it this time- more as an interesting history of compelling characters from a fascin ...more
Kesey had been involved in CIA sponsored drug tests, which included such recreational fun things as LSD, mescalin and cocaine. The CIA knows how to party! The Merry Pran ...more
But I recently restored my suppressed memory by hooking down Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," first published in 1968. The book I had avoided for thirty year ...more
After finishing Back to Blood, I felt curious about Tom Wolfe's beginnings. My beginning with Tom Wolfe was reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in 1969. I married my first husband in April of that year and we set out on our "honeymoon" which was really a glorified road trip across the country from Ann Arbor to San Francisco, inspired by Kerouac's On the Road. We camped the whole way, intending to end up as teachers in a "free school" in San Fran.
Reading Acid Test was our preparation, our Ri ...more
Much like Kerouac's On the Road, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was one of those books that I tried several times to read and always failed miserably to get through the first chapter. I made it a priority of mine now to sit down with it and read the effing thing.
(Side note: I have a notebook I've kept for... a really long time... in which I started writing down books I wanted to read when I worked at a use ...more
What I found most striking reading this book some four decades after the events it depicts took place is how many niche, or ...more
Ken Kesey was a charismatic figure, who believed that 'tuning in' through use of LSD was THE WAY to be 'On the Bus'. The book is full of his dogmatic, paranoid fantasies, and rejecting anyone who didn't agree with his philosophy as squares and 'Off the Bus'. It is not always completely clear about whether a viewpoint is Kesey's or ...more
As for the story, I'm really fascinated. I just love the idea of average square America's reaction to them. To me it's a lot li ...more
Tom Wolfe spent his early days as a Washington Post beat reporter, where his free-association, onomatopoetic style would later become the trademark of New Journalism. In books such as The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe delves into ...more