One of the most essential works on the 1960s counterculture, Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Test ushered in an era of New Journalism.
This is the seminal work on the hippie culture, a report on what it was like to follow along with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters as they launched the "Transcontinental Bus Tour" from the West Coast to New York, all while introducing acid (then legal) to hundreds of like-minded folks, staging impromptu jam sessions, dodging the Feds, and meeting some of the most revolutionary figures of the day.
"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, LSD, and the psychedelic 1960s.
A good view into that culture
I was born in 1964, so by the time I came of age, the psychedelic movement was over, and the war on drugs was full on. I was just behind it though, and it shaped in explicit and subtle ways everything I experienced in the 70’s and 80’s. There is a lot to read out there about psychedelics, about the late 60’s, about the war and the Haight and everything that was going on, and I’ve read much of that, too. But reading this is different because of the way Wolfe wrote it. Its not just a documentary, and it’s not a journalistic account. It’s more like a Picasso. Wolfe puts words on the page in an attempt to give the reader the first hand experience of being there. Since I missed it, and couldn’t be there, I’m thankful for that because the movement improved the world at the time. It elevated the collective awareness and I think we need a shot of that again now. America needs a good trip, a day-glo movie, another bunch of Pranksters!
One Flew Over the Acid Test
Every time I re-read Electric Kool-aid Acid Test I get something different and unexpected from it. I have been moved from total fixation to repulsion, then empathy, fascination, exhilaration, envy, and most recently, sorrow. I lived during the 60's, experienced an acid test type happening in Madison, Wisconsin, and feel as the many participants in the original tests, that my life was profoundly changed by the experiences of several life changing trips. As I aged I came to the same conclusion that the Pranksters did; after you've passed through the doors of expanded perception several times, I can access those depths without drugs. This book should be required reading for every student of sociology and psychology everywhere.
An odd book about odd folks in an odd time.. written in a style that demands you abandon any hope of linearity, or plot, or character development until you come out the other end and put it all together. I didn’t really enjoy reading the book, but was glad I did when I finished it.