Early this year I purchased The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, and The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley for the library I work for. Sometimes taking a chance pays off and both circulated a few times before I got my turn at them. The Wolfe book is about LSD, and the Huxley book is about Mescalin. Both drugs I would not consider doing in real life, but I find interesting. Usually I prefer fiction, but I enjoy non-fiction that tells how people push boundaries.
Doors of Perception I didn’t like and found too academic. If you ever considered pursuing an advanced art degree I recommend it because I counted a ten-page obsession about draperies in the work of various art masters. Everyone else can skip it. In this seventy-page thesis the most interesting thing is he states how destructive legal alcohol and tobacco are because of car crashes and cancer. This book came out in 1956, and people use the same arguments today.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test I recommend because it explains the thought behind the hippy movement. Recently I read both On the Road and Dharma Bums by Jack Karouac. So I knew that Karouac wrote about a person named Neal Cassady. Guess what, this Cassady is part of group Wolfe documents. Another author, Ken Kesey, is the focus of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Some time after Kesey published One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest he decided to support an entourage of sorts who called themselves The Merry Pranksters. They did a lot of drugs including acid, and Cassady was a central figure. Sadly sometime in the book in NYC they see Karouac and labeled him as part of the old generation. Karouac died in 1969, only a year after Wolfe’s book came out.
In this book the music is important, and the Grateful Dead played at their events. Jefferson Airplane is mentioned as well. Strangely Jimi Hendrix does not get mentioned, and that makes me assume his fame was short since he died in 1970. There was a lot going on at the time, including Vietnam and this book reads better than a history book.
Kesey was pretty wild. He faked is own death in order to skip jail time. Then he hid out in Mexico until he was caught.
Kesey and this group did heavy drug use, and tried to bring out their artistic talents this way. They did one thing that I think is horrible. At one of their events they laced the Kool-Aid punch with acid and did not tell the attendees. Even though I think drugs should be legal no one should alter beverages or give people drugs without their knowledge. Other than that, Kesey and his entourage made a choice on how to live their lives. They did the opposite of the respectable 9 to 5, and lived for the moment. Now that I’m learning that Kesey, Kerouac, Wolfe, and others were connected in the literary scene I may read more from this time period. Maybe the 1960’s in the United States was much cooler than expatriate Paris in the 1920’s. From this book I got one suggestion to read. Apparently Hunter S. Thompson wrote a book on the Hell’s Angels, and I want to read it.
Ironically, most of Kesey’s legal troubles in this book were from marijuana charges, not his other shenanigans. For a long time people have wanted weed legalized, hopefully that can happen soon on the federal level, not this state-by-state crap. Lastly, I’m glad that people can read books on all aspects of humanity without censorship. I’ll never do heroin, but I found Requiem for a Dream fascinating. Prior to 1959 everything was censored in the United States. People write books on everything so everyone doesn’t have to do everything. Ha.