Jun 30, 2009

Stoned in September

For our next meeting on September 8, I have 3 drug induced literary masterpieces. I understand that we will also be reading Crazy for the Storm (288 pages). I just don’t want to give anyone the impression that I have surrendered my selections. Bottom line, we will be reading 2 books within a 6 weeks span (600+ pages).

I will not take credit for the following overviews I am in the middle of a heater and it just won’t mellow out.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolf, 414 pages

In the 1960s, Ken Kesey lead a group of psychedelic sympathizers (the Merry Pranksters) around the country in a painted bus, presiding over LSD-induced "acid tests" all along the way. Long considered one of the greatest books about the history of the hippies, Wolfe's ability to research like a reporter and simultaneously evoke the hallucinogenic indulgence of the era ensures that this book, written in 1967, will live long in the counter-culture canon of American literature.

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone (National Book Award) 352 pages
Stone was also a member of the Merry Pranksters.

In Saigon during the waning days of the Vietnam War, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go horribly wrong for him. Dog Soldiers perfectly captures the underground mood of America in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered profiteering cops and professional killers - and the price of survival was dangerously high.

My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs & Shakespeare , 320pages
by Jess Winfield, award winning cartoon producer
(could have been a Merry Prankster)

Winfield, cofounder of the comedy troupe Reduced Shakespeare Company, brings an intimate knowledge of the Bard as well as an infectious sense of humor to this witty first novel. In a dual narrative, we follow both Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a perpetually stoned graduate student, and the young playwright himself as he tentatively feels his way toward his destiny. Having spent the past two years struggling to come up with a master’s thesis in his Shakespeare studies, Willie finds himself desperately short of cash when his father cuts off his funding. He impulsively agrees to deliver drugs, including a gigantic psychedelic mushroom, to a buyer at the Renaissance Faire, traveling to the site with his latest infatuation, a sexy fellow grad student. Meanwhile, 18-year-old William, fond of wordplay and even fonder of women, agrees to deliver a package to an oppressed Catholic firebrand. Each story mirrors the other as the two young men gradually grow wiser about both the ways of the world and their own emotional shortcomings. Bawdy puns, a clever construction, and a deliciously irreverent sense of humor make this debut novel irresistible. --Joanne Wilkinson


  1. While all of the books sound if they would be interesting to those who partake in such activities, I somehow missed the boat. Since it may have some deeper literary merit, my vote is for Shakespeare..."My Name is Will".


  2. I lean toward Tom Wolfe, but only b/c (like Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer), his book is one of those classics that I probably will never read unless forced to.

  3. I like both the Wolfe (I agree with Andrew, "classic" and the Stone books a lot. (I don't know the third choice.) Plenty to discuss in both about the world then and now. I think Dog Soldiers is Stone's first novel, so it's not as strong as say his later A Flag for Sunrise or my personal favorite Outerbridge Reach (a great sailing book!), but it is definitely worthwhile, especially as a character study of Converse and a "can't fail, get rich quick scheme."

    Bottom line: you won't be disappointed with any of the September possibilities.

  4. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a classic, and illustrates the sea changes of the '60s better than most. I highly recommend it, especially if you were too young to make it to Woodstock, the Trips Festival, or hanging in the Haight in its heyday. Since I've read it, though loved it having been a hippie once upon a time, it hits second place on this preference list for me.

    The mix of sex, drugs and Shakespeare intrigue me for some odd reason, so that would be my #1 pick. He mixed them up often in the plays. An updated twist on his plots, if done well, might be a good summer read.

    Drug deals gone bad seem like a rerun of too many movies produced in the last 30 years (Falcon and the Snowman, Blow, etc...), so therefore this title falls to #3, despite the noble heritage of its author.

  5. I vote for the Wolfe Book. Primarily because I want to see what Dan can come up with for dinner based on this book. Will is my second choice.

  6. I've never read EKAAT, but I don't really have any nostalgia or appreciation for that lifestyle, so not interested. Dog Soldiers has too much in common with In The Lake of the Woods and The 25th Hour, so I'd like to try something new. My vote is for My Name Is Will.

  7. My vote is for the Bard – The review makes it sound like a great summer read and the kind of story the original Will would pen were he alive today.

    Second is Dog Soldiers – as someone already commented , it sounds like 25th Hour meets In The Lake of the Woods meets News of a Kidnapping. So OK, but only because I had to vote for a 2nd.

    Tom Wolf moved on after Electric Kool-Aid as did most of the Pranksters and we should too (even Kool Aid moved on to Jamestown). Once a great notion.

  8. Back from Paris, and sad I missed a meal which sounds better than even anything I sampled in the city of light or in Provence. In any case, Kool Aid may be a bit dated, so I'll go with something more dated -- first choice is Shakespeare, second is Kool Aid.

  9. Men of MBC-
    Just checking to see what title you selected for your September 8 meeting in addition to Crazy for the Storm. I read the Ollestad last week and am ready to chat/blog/dialogue on that memoir. I'm interested in how you decide to discuss two books over one meeting. One over beers, then one over the meal? Thanks for keeping me in the loop.
    JP in IL