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Last of the Hippies Paperback – 1 Aug 1999
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Part autobiography, part history, part travelogue, this is an account of the author's experiences in that marginal realm, the mythical hippie's heavenly playground, and an investigation of how the hippies of his youth are faring in the modern world.
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It is very well written and is an interesting social commentary (as well as being humorous with a dash of added pathos where needed) and I would recommend it to anyone.
I was 17 in 1971 and the 'scene' Stone portrays is one I readily recognize, experienced and fully enjoyed myself.
Despite that there is something about the book that I find unpalatable. It's Stone's cavalier attitude to the most vulnerable character in the book, a man suffering a mental illness and who I suspect Stone thought would never be in a position to defend himself against the author's willingness to exploit him, namely Pete.
In the book (p.16) C J Stone comments he was "a selfish young man, too caught up in my own concerns to notice what was going on in anybody else's life; too busy pursuing my own salvation to notice that there were others more in need than me. That was what it was like at the time. Vanity and indulgence..." However, when he was writing the book about 25 years later Stone was presumably more mature but still lacks any more compassion for Pete than he did then, and admits that the book hinged on his portrayal of him.
Further, despite his claim to have searched extensively for Pete and failed, he went ahead and published his full name. Why? Surely he could have shown more respect for Pete and concealed his true identity without it ever affecting the narrative?
On page 234 C J Stone comments that if Peter does read this book,, "and if he contacts me through the publishers because of it, then I'll have to rewrite this section, and you'll have to wait till the reprint to find out how he is. And I will get double the royalties. Ha!"
There we have it, the unvarnished truth, Pete's reputation was sacrificed on the altar of C J Stone's literary career, ego and royalties.
As the author himself would put it all "Vanity and indulgence"
Hippie is a state of mind, and the movement fragmented in the '70s, creating multiple, often shining threads within society, and without. My own path has been to try to alter from within, many of the people in this book chose other routes. "The Last of the Hippies" reminded me of where we all began the journey, and of the wonderful world we thought we were creating. I loved the cynical point of view, though.
One criticism, Chris - "White Bird" was a song by "It's a Beautiful Day".
Like an alternative Bill Bryson, CJ travels the length and breadth of Britain (well, between Birmingham and Glastonbury actually) investigating the state of Hippydom both past and present.
CJ's own experiences make fascinating reading as do those of his friends and lovers with both humour and pathos along the way. A wry and witty observer, Mr Stone acts as the proverbial hatpin puncturing many of the over inflated conceits of the underground as well as providing a well needed boot up the arse for the hangers-on and troublemakers who spoil the scene for the responsible ones.
Don't expect too many answers though. I am left dying to know just what became of Piss-Off Pete.
I recommend this distinguished work without reservation to anyone who is still trying to make sense of Roy Harper and to anyone remotely interested in popular sociology. If anything it makes me feel a tad less awkward about the fact that I still sport long hair and jeans with holes in them at the age of 38. Like you say CJ; the trouble with hippies is that many of them never grew up. Long may it stay that way.