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The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test Paperback – 17 Feb 1989

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (17 Feb. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552993662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552993661
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

They say if you remember the '60s, you weren't there. But, fortunately, Tom Wolfe was there, notebook in hand, politely declining LSD while Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters fomented revolution, turning America on to a dangerously playful way of thinking as their Day-Glo conveyance, Further, made the most influential bus ride since Rosa Parks's. By taking On the Road's hero Neal Cassady as his driver on the cross-country revival tour and drawing on his own training as a magician, Kesey made Further into a bully pulpit, and linked the beat epoch with hippiedom. Paul McCartney's Many Years from Now cites Kesey as a key influence on his trippy Magical Mystery Tour film. Kesey temporarily renounced his literary magic for the cause of "tootling the multitudes"--making a spectacle of himself--and Prankster Robert Stone had to flee Kesey's wild party to get his life's work done. But in those years, Kesey's life was his work, and Wolfe infinitely multiplied the multitudes who got tootled by writing this major literary-journalistic monument to a resonant pop-culture moment.

Kesey's theatrical metamorphosis from the distinguished author of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest to the abominable shaman of the "Acid Test" soirees that launched The Grateful Dead required Wolfe's Day-Glo prose account to endure (though Kesey's own musings in Demon Box are no slouch either). Even now, Wolfe's book gives what Wolfe clearly got from Kesey: a contact high. --Tim Appelo, Amazon.com

Review

"A day-glo book, illuminating, merry, surreal!" (The Washington Post)

"Tom Wolfe is a groove and a gas. Everyone should send him money and other fine things. Hats off to Tom Wolfe!" (Terry Southern)

"Not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the essential book... The pushing, ballooning heart of the matter... Vibrating dazzle!" (The New York Times)

"An American Classic" (Newsweek)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've savored just about every word this man's ever written. I still vividly recall him at a lecture he gave in Berkley in 1972 standing at the lectern in his white Gatsby suit, starched pink shirt and nattily knotted tie. I can't recall the ostensible topic. He covered so much ground and had such a wealth of ideas and insights that the topic was irrelevent anyway. He's always been our keenest observer of American culture, on subjects ranging from hippies, art snobs, wall street, the space race, to the Southern nouveau-riches.
In terms of unadulterated reading enjoyment, however, this book is still my favorite. He captures the era perfectly. This was the period in the mid-sixties when the hippie philosophy and lifestyle was still genuine, before it had become commercially exploited by the mass media, before Manson and Altamont and the seeds of evil. It was an uncorrupted, pure, joyous movement and moment. Owsley was the bay area chemist who produced hits of Sandoz-quality acid that sent the children out dancing blissfully through the night and into the purple dawn. It truly looked like a brave new world. If you are young and can't undertand why former hippies wax nostalgic about it, it's primarily (at least to me) because that tiny era of innocence can never be recreated.
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By A Customer on 23 May 2003
Format: Paperback
As somebody slightly obsessed with the major happenings of the sixties, but who missed the period by a good 10 years, I found this book compelling. I've heard stories for years by old hippies about their crazy travels, but nothing as lucid as Wolfe's excellent commentary on the Merry Pranksters. Kesey is painted as a zarathustra-esque messiah of hippiedom, leading his dedicated crew of followers into an awesome social experiment.....and not with small thanks to a little LSD! Slightly crazy, slightly dark at times, frequently funny, constantly fascinating. Wolfe seems to capture the idealistic notions of the pranksters' attempts to subvert society perfectly; as a reader you're literally bumping around the back of the bus with them. Oh for a big psychedelic school-bus!
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An incredible insight into a pivotal time. Wolfe draws upon the experiences of many Merry Pranksters to give a range of personal perspectives, capturing the frenetic vibe of the developing psychedelic movement with a unique writing style. For some, this style may prove difficult to penetrate, while others will find it absorbing. (You're either on the bus or off the bus!) Personally, it carried me along with the flow on a most enjoyable ride...
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Where did the saying "You're either on the bus or you're off the bus" come from ?

Who were the real people in Kerouac's On The Road ?

How did The Grateful Dead create such awesome sounds ?

What did the Pranksters think about their meeting with The Hell's Angels ? (Hunter Thompson reported it in his book of the same name - this gives the other side of the same story)

How did The Beatles come up with the idea for their Magical Mystery Tour ?

The answer to these and many more questions about the acid culture of the 60s (when it was a lot safer to pop a tab) can be found in this great read. Highly recommended for anyone who was around at the time and can't remember much about it - also recommended for those who can remember and want a great trip down memory lane.
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Format: Paperback
Ken Keysey is a myth in his own time. The author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest, the guru of LSD culture as the more gritty and real reflection of Timothy Leary (or I should rather say Leary was Keysey's reflection).

Given this, it is only right that he should be the central subject of a book written about this culture and time, which is in essence what the Electric Kool-aid Acid Test is.

This account describes the rise and fall of LSD culture from the early 1960s. Tom Wolfe, a prominent journalist of the time documents Keyseys journey from his early involvement in official LSD experiments and his establishment of an LSD community whose primary aim was to seek enlightenment using LSD as a tool, to Keysey's ultimate rejection of LSD.

This book is a testament to the charisma and strength of Keysey's character in his ability to lead his merry bunch through their escapades across America, outraging the local conservatives in doing so. Keysey's will and skill is put to the test from such tasks as wooing the cultural intelligentia of the day to the altogether more hazardous pursuit of entertaining the Hell's Angels.

There are some excellent scenes in the book, for example incorporating the person on whom Kerouac's "On The Road" hero Moriarty, is based upon, and also a description of the meeting between Keysey and Kerouac, where the egos of the two appear to clash in a "this town ain't big enough for two intellectual authors"-type scene.

My only criticism is that Wolfe sometimes appears a little star-struck by Keysey, who is clearly highly seductive. However, he manages to maintain enough objectivity to make this book a fascinating description of the culture and politics of the 1960's, as told through the inspiring anti-convention adventures and escapades of Keysey and his disciples. I cannot but give this book 5 stars as an account of the truth behind the pop myth of the 1960's psychedelic revolution.
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It is with great appropriatenessnessness that Hunter Thompson, in an S-less state, is mentioned, as the author of "Hell's Angels", as this is the other half of the equation whose solution is "Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas".

A psychedelic splurge of a book, covering the acid-soaked start of the California Counterculture, of a type that the Summer of Love represented an end of, not a beginning. As the half-century approaches, read it and enjoy as the past turns into history - and no, they're not the same thing.
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