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Outside Looking In

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,836 ratings  ·  295 reviews
It is Harvard in the early 1960s. Just off campus, Dr Timothy Leary plays host for his PhD students, laying on a spread of cocktails, pizza and LSD. Among the guests is Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology student, and his librarian wife Joanie. Married young, and both diligently and unglamorously toiling to support their son, they are not the sort of people one would expect to be ...more
Hardcover, 385 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Bloomsbury Circus (first published January 28th 2019)
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Geoffrey Skinner 4:20 is an anachronism here. Though possibly apocryphal, 4:20 references the gathering time for smoking marijuana outside San Rafael High School in Ma…more4:20 is an anachronism here. Though possibly apocryphal, 4:20 references the gathering time for smoking marijuana outside San Rafael High School in Marin County, California. See
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  1,836 ratings  ·  295 reviews

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Ron Charles
In 1997, a few grams of Timothy Leary’s ashes were blasted into orbit aboard a Pegasus rocket. As a metaphor of the grand showman’s spaced-out antics, it was the perfect conclusion. And if Leary’s expanded consciousness is still out there peering down on planet Earth, he must be wondering what took T.C. Boyle so long to write a novel about him.

Boyle is America’s bard of historical frauds and pipe dreams. He’s written about the cereal promoter John Harvey Kellogg and the sexologist Alfred Kinsey.
Diane S ☔
Not rating as I'm dnfing at 25% which is about all I can take of reading about Lsd in this slow paced novel.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

I've read a few Boyle novels so the 1960's atmosphere and iconoclast subject didn't surprise me. What surprised me was the the storytelling wasn't more compelling or tightly crafted. There's only so many LSD trips I can read about when I don't care about the characters.
Just hours after I finished (dissatisfied), I saw a review in the New York Times Books section which captured my reaction perfectly:
"This is not the best T.C. Boyle novel, but it's without question a T.C. Boyle novel - kinetic
switterbug (Betsey)
I had to abort this one, sadly. Underwhelmed this time by Boyle. His book about the California islands, San Miguel--that one took my breath away many times, especially that swim scene in the opening pages. And I loved my hallucinogens back in the day. It's not that TC didn't capture the trip details, but it was all so uninspired in its execution. The plot is linear, flat, everything is flat, even Leary. Boyle didn't take the plunge into their souls. It's like he just followed them around day aft ...more
This book is kind of like an acid trip. It’s very entertaining and colorful, and reading it, you have lots of thoughts, but then when it’s done, it’s all kind of forgettable. Or that’s not really true, because your first experiences with acid also make you realize how much of the experience of life you’re filtering out, out of habit and convenience, and you’re able to kind of tune into that a bit in the rest of your life that follows. This novel is just an entertainment. That said, it’s very ent ...more
Bob Wake
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No spoilers here, but I gotta say: The last line is a gem. Funny, insightful, devastating. Overall, a well crafted if ultimately too glib novel. T. C. Boyle’s many musical cues placed throughout the story are always smartly chosen—from John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, to Ravi Shankar and the inevitable epochal arrival of the Beatles—but also sort of lazy, like a greatest hits movie soundtrack. While the novel’s focus on invented characters on the periphery of LSD guru Tim ...more
W.D. Clarke
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am what you might call a TC Boyle Completist Wannabe, wannabe because you can never quite catch up to the dude, it seems. To call him prolific would be to deploy the ol' rhetorical litotes to the max, as there is a new novel and a brace of new stories just about every season, and they are all just about always very good at the very least.

Now, Outside Looking In, concerned with the early years of the Timothy Leary cult, does not reach the peak of this vast output (my personal faves being Drop C
Thilo Mischke
Imagine your parents, telling you: don’t do drugs, because it will make you a asocial part of the society. Now imagine a book telling you the same thesis spread over 340 pages. Yep, it’s nothing new and it’s kinda boring.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Look here - I love TC Boyle. But this one was a disappointing exploration of Leary and the other white men leading a revolution for themselves - insert eye roll - no examination of sexism, racism, etc. Might be period correct but this is a story that has been told over and over and over and over
Sarah Paolantonio
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although in places this was a 4-star read, overall this book is just barely 3 stars for me – somewhere between I liked it and it was OK. I liked this story a lot initially. As an early 70’s kid who had more than a fleeting experience with “The Sacrament” (a/k/a LSD) and mescaline, I was (and still am) quite fascinated with the mind expanding capabilities of psychedelic drugs. Fortunately, I had only very positive experiences with them, and I’d always wished I had been around in the days when it ...more
Becky Loader
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was in grade school when Leary and his disciples were discovering psychedelic drugs. I do remember "turn on, tune in, drop out" and all its ramifications for life in the 1970's.

Boyle is his usual wordsmith self here with lovely prose and vocabulary. The portrait of the psychologists, psychiatrists, students, and faculty of Harvard is not especially flattering, but I fear it is very accurate. The women (ahem--the WIVES) are especially irritating because of their willingness to be such a herd o
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very disappointed. I had liked several previous books by Boyle, and was excited to learn about Timothy Leary and the LSD culture.
The "hook" describing the scientific events leading to the synthesis of LSD was exciting. The protagonist being Leary's grad student appeared to be an interesting angle as well. But then the story got muddled, too unstructured, with multiple peripheral characters. I just did not care for or about any of them.
Another sort of exciting scene happened almost a two thirds
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What’s the difference between this novel and Boyle’s “Drop City”? The names are different. But the personalities, motivations, and behaviors of the characters are identical.

On the plus side, the book’s E-Z reading 385 pages summarize Timothy Leary’s densely packed “Flashbacks: an autobiography”.

I just now found that not only is the content of Boyle's book not orignal, even the title is not original. It came from another biography published in 1999 by Robert Forte: "Timothy Leary: Outside looki
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
That must’ve been the best ending sentence to a book ever! Classic T.C Boyle I loved it . The bulk of the book was a little draggy though and I didn’t relate to the characters but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless with all of the talent of Boyle’s use of language to the fore.
Aug 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess I expect more from this author.
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read numerous novels and short stories by TC Boyle over the last 20 years. Boy;e is prolific and talented and during his earliest books laugh out loud funny. Outside Looking In id dry in yjr rsly 60's and inserts a fictional couple Fitz and Joanie Loney into the orbit of Timothy Leary the Harvard professor who became famous/infamous for prostelitizing about the wonders of LSD.

Boyle writes fairly regularly about real life larger then life figures in his novels (Alfred Kinsey and Frank Llo
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leary in the mid 60s and how it all started to go wrong.
Kent Winward
The history of LSD through the eyes of the acolytes. . . the Hoffman piece with the lab assistant was stronger and I was a little sad to leave them at the beginning of the novel. Classic Boyle pitting alternative social and world views in novelistic conflict. The beauty of the conflict juxtaposition is that it illuminates strengths and weaknesses on both sides and usually Boyle balances this well for me, but this felt out of balance and by the end felt more like an attack piece on the use of hal ...more
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Outside Looking In by T. C. Boyle is a very highly recommended look at early psychedelic experimentation in the 1960's.

LSD was first synthesized in BaselIn, Switzerland in 1943, as covered in the prelude. The novel then advances to 1962-1964 and introduces Fitzhugh (Fitz) Loney, a psychology Ph.D. student at Harvard. When his advisor, Tim, invites Fitz and his wife, Joanie, to attend a Saturday night research session at his home, they are nervous, but accept. Tim and his inner circle are taking
Gabriella Crivilare
Very much not my thing. I didn't have sympathy for anyone except maybe the kids who had to live with this, and the rest of the characters were terrible, self-involved, unlikeable people. I only finished it because I was under an obligation to; otherwise I wouldn't have made it past the first chapter.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: partially-read
I read a good half before deciding I had read enough about college-reared+stuck-there students, professors, and hang-on wanna-a’be people with perhaps some dysfunctional psychological thoughts added in - yes, that was a run on sentence and thoroughly disconnected - but that is how this book led me. I was tired about reading about drugs and seeing the addiction just waiting to happen. I got a bit anxious even with the slump of ruminating characters.
Even though I do like many of TC Boyle’s writte
James Beggarly
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable book about a young man in graduate school in Harvard who slowly falls under Timothy Leary’s spell and leaves school, with his wife and teenage son, to follow Leary and his non-traditional LSD experiments. As always, Boyle brings so much humor as he shines a light on that time, exposing all the wonder and hypocrisy of Leary and his early acolytes.
Jenny Brown
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my gosh I'm lost of words. Nice one Caro
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was truly engaging.
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another delightful read from Boyle, who finds perhaps his perfect subject here.
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in 1960's Harvard, this book details the beginning experimentation of LSD amongst the chosen few of the Harvard phycology department led by Dr Timothy Leary. It starts as a weekly event amongst the doctors, students and their wives at Leary’s house, with careful dosages, detailed note taking and study. Before long they expand their experimentation to other groups, their experiment on a bunch of theology students in a church during an Easter service is particularly funny, and move to other lo ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is interesting history at this particular time when the ambience of the late 60's is rearing up in film and in books. Films like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Midsommer, Echo in the Canyon, several new Woodstock movies, and books like Revolutionaries, Creepy Crawling, Astral Weeks, The Girls are not all given to illuminating the bright side of those times. Cultish behavior roamed the land and, though less impactful, the impulse was not dissimilar to the attraction that our current presiden ...more
Jan 11, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What an astonishingly unimpressive book. The best line of the book is the last line of dialogue from Timothy Leary; not only did it end the endless succession of completely predictable incidents and flat-line character arcs (Joanie and Corey are the only characters who remotely have any character development), but it confirmed everything the reader knew from the beginning. Science? Investigation? Experiments? What dumbass psychologists thought they could be experimenter and observers at the same ...more
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This is a tough one to review. As a short history of the beginnings of LSD use in our society, it covers it. But as an historical novel, it didn't quite make it for me. As I admire this author and the subject matter covered my teen years, I expected to love it. There was almost no character development, a bit more sense of place and time, and just a brush with the utopian ideals popular in the 60s. It certainly included the important names associated with the hallucinogenic counter-culture but I ...more
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Mt. Lebanon Publi...: Outside Looking In by T. Coraghessan Boyle 1 5 Jun 11, 2019 04:20PM  

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T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published seventeen novels and eleven collections of short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World's End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York. He is married with three children. Boyle has been a Distinguished Professor of English at the ...more

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