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Timothy Leary: A Biography Hardcover – 9 Nov 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Publishers,U.S.; First Edition First Printing edition (9 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151005001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151005000
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16.5 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,297,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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PRAISE FOR DARK STAR: AN ORAL BIOGRAPHY OF JERRY GARCIA"A poignant glimpse of a man with extraordinary power who ultimately used that power against himself."-THE BOSTON GLOBE"Greenfield renders an unflinching portrait of one of the most prolific and enigmatic figures in American music." -SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

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Robert Greenfield is the award winning author of numerous biographies

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2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Master D. C. Hill on 30 Aug 2006
Format: Hardcover
Anyone interested in American culture (and expecially the counter culture) in the sixties will really enjoy this biography. This book will also have a lot to interest anyone interested in drugs and consciousness expansion. Once I started reading this, I really could not put it down. The mans life was incredible and will surely be made into a film soon. However anyone looking for a portrait of an inspirational guru will leave dissapointed. Leary was demonised and worshipped in equal measures. His life lived in pursuit of fame and acclaim, his myth making often covering numerous personal tragedies and inner turmoil. "Those who love Timothy Leary will hate your book. And those who hated him will never read it". This it the last line of this biography and after reading it I can only imagine it is true, however I found it to be one of the most fascinating biographies I have ever read, and would urge others to do the same.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eustace Phenackertiban on 2 July 2011
Format: Hardcover
It is almost certainly a mistake for an author who clearly loathes his subject to write their biography. The result is seldom likely to be a good book

I am no particular fan of Dr Leary. Such of his writing as I have read strikes me as glib. He is too prone to trying to slip distinctly arguable ideas past his readers by dressing them up with striking tricks of language.

My wife knew Leary, briefly, in his Millbrook phase. She said the most striking thing about him was his charisma. A charismatic can easily become lazy-minded. They don't have to be careful what they say makes sense, or is supported by the balance of the evidence. One of the tricks of charisma is the ability to make others want to believe them, pretty much no matter what they say. History is littered with examples.

However, while I am no Leary fan, this book could easily turn me into one. It is so biased that the temptation to redress the balance becomes almost overwhelming.

To begin with, although there are some entertaining snippets, there is not nearly enough by way of a coherent picture of the society and culture which Leary and many others rebelled against. All human action takes place in, and is given meaning by, its social context. The author seems unwilling to acknowledge this. If you read this book, it is almost as if Leary's actions took place in a vacuum, making them hard to understand or even apparently senseless. But there is worse.

Every incident, or remark which anyone made, that might show Leary in a bad light, is emphasised, often with a heavy-handed, snide, author's commentary that makes it plain he is trying to tell his readers what to think.
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Format: Hardcover
A very interesting book, but also very funny. Often at Timothy Leary's expense. If you like your human heroes to be as black and white as hollywood heroes then don't read this. Would make the basis for a great black comedy as T.L. bounces from one catastrophe to another, mostly with a smile on his face. I don't finish many 600 page books so it must be good...
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Halifax Student Account on 27 Jun 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow a fantastic ride through the canyons of Tim Leary's brains, peep in on Harvard mushroom parties, get your ass thrown into Americas hardcore prison complex, escape to 1970's Afghanistan (listen to this; a few decades ago, Afghanistan was a cosmopolitan country that allowed intellectuals to escape from the talibanic USA authorities!), and finally crash in on a sun baked Hollywood hills party; hobnobbing with booze, girls, Johnny Depp and prostate cancer. Greenfield handles all this with the finesse of a great novelist and, this is a cliché, reading this page turner. I was thrown slap-bang into the 1960's, and beyond, and I wasn't even born back then, which is weird. Tim Leary, by Greenfield's account, was no lovable Irish munchkin, but rather a shifty character with evil nostrils and so Greenfield hates Leary with such a skill for detail that it made me feel sorry for Greenfield having to write this. I mean, he seems to be sickened by Timothy Leary you know. As sickened as a bulimic in a cake shop even. I really mean it. Talk about kicking a man whilst dead, and making yourself all obsessive and almost pathological in writing about your favourite devil.

The devils childhood is in here and so is his old age and everything in between, Greenfield is so thorough in the negative department that I was left wondering, just why would the publisher hire Robert Greenfield to do all this mental flagellation anyway? I was reminded of the movie Angel Heart; the bit when Lucifer hires poor little Mickey Rourk to do some investigating in places that we all knew would turn out very bad. Well Greenfield has delved into a very bad place. It's like the publishers put a gun to poor Greenfield's head and made him write Timothy Leary's life story. Well that's my conspiracy theory anyway.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 51 reviews
62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Robert Greenfield: the new Albert Goldman? 5 Jun 2006
By Bill - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Robert Greenfield has created an Epic Novel [masquerading as non-fiction] in his newly-released biography "Timothy Leary" [2006, Harcourt, $28.00].

I will state up front that I am long an admirer of Dr Timothy Leary who, along with The Beatles and Bob Dylan, was one of the most famous/infamous figures of the turbulent 1960's with his call to "change your mind" "Question Authority" and "Turn On Tune In Drop Out."

That said, I purchased a copy of Greenfield's book out of curiosity and with an awareness that the author's tone was less than sympathectic to his subject [advance praise for the book made that clear back in May 06].

Now, 689 pages later, I am compelled to write this review as a caution to others who may not fully know the Leary story from LEARY'S point of view.

Mr Greenfield makes a point of describing Timothy Leary [over and over] as self-centered, self-serving, a liar, a bad parent...there is nothing in Leary's 75 years of life that Mr Greenfield describes without derisive asides and "notes."

Worse, there is a FICTIONIALIZED DRAMATIC NARRATIVE that has been used to serve as a book-end to this dreary bio [Leary, in bed as a child, awaiting his father's arrival home for the inevitalbe beating his father would administer to Leary, in bed as a dying man, awaiting his 'punishment' from...?]

Most hard to take is the inference that Leary's masterpiece "Flashbacks" [1983 autobiography] was loaded with inaccuracies and lies. One such "lie" refers to Leary claiming to have slept with actress Marilyn Monroe.

I have copies of every edition of "Flashbacks" and none makes such a claim.

Also galling is the assertion that actor Cary Grant was "more candid than Leary ever was" in accounts of his [Grant's] LSD experiences back in 1958. What was Leary doing from 1963 [dismissal from Harvard] to 1970 [imprisonment]if not advocating the benefits of further drug research? The call for government to responsibly research and license psychedelic drugs was Leary's mantra for those 7 or so heady years.

This book is ambitious but falls short of hitting the mark, assuming said mark was to cover the story of leary's life thoroughly, accurately.

Greenfield has filled these 689 pages with much of what Leary had already written in numerous volumes during his lifetime-and, ultimately, this book calls to mind another biographer, Albert Goldman, who also took a jaundiced view point of his deceased] subjects.

To sum up: Save your money and buy a copy of "Flashbacks."

Bill Picha

Salem Oregon
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Judgmental and Short-Sighted ... But Good 13 Jun 2006
By Miguel Luna - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book was hard to put down.

I have always admired Timothy Leary and after reading this biography, I admire the man even more.

Okay ... he was selfish. He was a liar. He was a lot of things that many or all of us are. He was human.

Greenfield ends his volume by stating that "the man who advocated change but could never change himself" had died.

I take issue with his conclusion. Whether Leary "changed" or "grew" is something only Leary knew for sure. Even all of Leary's friends and "friends" couldn't judge that, even if they did get to share Leary's life with him.

Leary was an important man in modern history. He had the courage to point to very important things for people to know. Of course, more superficial people get hung up on the guy doing the pointing instead of what the guy is pointing to.

I never considered Leary to be anything other than a wounded, weak human, so I wasn't disappointed by what I read in this book.

If anything, it made me feel as though he really was a friend of mine, struggling with many of the same challenges that make life the riddle it often can be.

Unlike Greenfield and those who were interviewed for this book, I'm compelled not to make any value judgments on the man who was Timothy Leary.

I prefer to simply love him and be thankful that he helped point me toward reprogramming my own brain and questioning authority.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
An amazing life 30 Jun 2006
By L. A. Wayte - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This new biography of Leary presents him as a complex character full of flaws and tragic heroism. In particular, Leary's tragic personal life stands in stark contrast here to his larger-than-life counterculture heroics. Whether you love him or hate him, you will have to admit that his life makes for an amazing story. Greenfield tells that story in fluid prose, weaving together disparate first-hand accounts into a detailed chronological portrait. If the book has a flaw, it is that Greenfield perhaps loses his own voice at times, relying too much on quotes from others to tell the story. But, the flip side of that is that he does not let his own agenda interfere with telling the story. Another minor criticism is that he could have helped the reader out at places by providing more date references to keep the chronology clear -- there were times I had to go back several pages to remind myself what year was being discussed. But, at the end of this remarkable book, those flaws are minor indeed. If you have any interest at all in Leary or the '60s counterculture, this book comes highly recommended. Since reading it, I have found myself constantly thinking about Leary and processing the meaning of his life and times. That is what good books are all about.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The Hermeneutics of Suspicion and Its Failings 14 July 2006
By Thomas M. Seay - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Greenfield's book suffers from the same disorder as most biographies: the author felt the need to find "A" narrative, "A" plumbline that runs through the life of Timothy Leary. In this case, he traces the psychedelic gurus propensity towards being a cad back to his earliest years. Indeed, the author does reveal the opportunistic side of his subject: Leary finked on lawyers and friends who had helped him in order to get a lighter sentence from authorities. This should sober those who treat the psychedelic guru as the ultimate anti-authoritarian.

But surely Leary is more than the monodimensional character that Greenfield depicts. Terence McKenna once said that Timothy Leary made more people happy than anyone else. That may be hyperbole, but Greenfield does not consider the positive opinion many had of Leary. He neither disputes nor affirms such claims. This is a major flaw in this "Life" which does include many fascinating tidbits. As an antidote to this one-sidedness, one should read Robert Forte's "On the Outside Looking In" which is a collection of perspectives on Leary.
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A hefty tome for Leary-haters 8 Jun 2006
By Antero Alli - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It was with great anticipation that I approached this new biography of Dr. Timothy Leary whose own book, "Info-Psychology", inspired a book I wrote called "Angel Tech" (New Falcon, 1987) based on Leary's 8-Circuit Brain model (one of his many valuable contributions to society). Though this biography seems to get all the details right about Tim Leary the man (warts and all), his failed relationships and struggles with the law, I was dismayed and disappointed by the lack of mention and extrapolation of his many actual intellectual and psychological accomplishments. So much dirt , so little gold. If you're looking for the gossip that makes us all fallible and ethically questionable in the eyes of others, this book is for you. If you're looking for, as I was, any kind of depth and investigation around Leary's research into intelligence increase you will probably be, as I was, let down. A hefty tome for Leary-haters. -- Antero Alli
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