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September 29, 1968 - Image 5

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Sunday, September Z9, 1968



Sunday, September 29,1968 THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Paae Five

.Zowie! Pow! It's


WOLFE!lioe 's

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid
Test, by Tom Wolfe. Farrar,
Straus, and Giroux, $5.95.
You Are There is Tom Wolfe's
bag. Using a style of reporting
that effectively drops the reader
into the middle of whatever he
is getting at Wolfe has recreated
all types of situations and per-
sonalities. This approach to
writing is not a simple one; the
writer must not only be able to
see all of what goes on, but'also
inust make his vision live again
in words. Tom Wolfe has been
successful at this task, and his
popularity parallels that com-
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid
(I Test is Wolfe's best work, and
his style, called "parajournal-
isms' by its critics, is excellent
here. Ostensibly, this book is the
story of Ken Kesey' (Author of,
One Flew Over t h e Cuckoo's
Nest) and his Merry Pranksters.
But the particular persons and
9 their particular life'style are big
enough to touch everything: the
Pranksters' world is like one of
those county fair swirl paintings
in whic paint is dropped onto a
piece of whirling glass-soon the
colors run into and out of each
other and the glass is completely
covered. Instead of Just. paint,
though, the Pranksters use~d
Day-Gb, color film, tapes and
intricate sound systems, an
electric organ and drugs. The
machine that makes their paint-
ing possible is a test tube-LSD
-and the setting is no ordinary
county fair.
The setting is in fact, Now:
the neon, Day-Glo, electro-acid,
speed grass, out-front American
scene. Time and time again
Wolfe points out that this ex-
perience, the Prankster trip, is
American. However weird, ugly,
blasphemous or dangerous the
experience of these people they
saw their collective life ;as an
allegory of America and, more
important, they have been re-
sponsible for much of what Now
America has become.
Ken Kesey's contribution to
Now America had subtle and ev-
en accidental beginnings. Kes-
ey went to Stanford in 1958 to
study creative writing; he and
his wife Faye were soon adopted
by an arty group who fancied
their 0O r e g o n back-country
charm. A member of this group
suggested that Kesey make ex-
tra money by volunteering for
"psychomimeti,, drug exper-
neprts being conducted t a
nearby hospital. One dayKesey
was given LSD, and sudd nly he
cQuld see into the doctor who
came to question him. Kesey
noticed that the man's lower lip
0 trembled slightly and some-
how he understood - he could.
"See each muscle fiber de-
cussate, pulling the poor jelly
of his lip to the left and the
fibers one. by one leading back
into infrared caverns of t h e
body, through transistor-radio
innards of nerve tangles, each
one on Red Alert, the poor nin-
ny's hooks desperately trying to
make the little bastards keep
still in there, I am Doctor, this
is laiman specimen before me."
By early 1960, two years be-
fore Timothy Leary and Richard
* Alpert passed the drug to Har-
vard frosh, Kesey and, his
friends were conducting their
own experiments with LSD,
mescaline, IT-290 (a supera-
mphetamine) and peyote (which
they bought mail order from
Laredo, Texas).
Kesey also began working as
an assistant in a psychiatric
ward, where he found charac-
ters and setting for One Flew
Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Cer-
tain parts of the novel w e r e
written while Kesey was on LSD
or peyote; the door had been

opened and the whole mind had
The whole mind's efforts did
not go unnoticed. When t h e
Keseys moved into a log house
in the middle of a redwood for-
est, beautiful people started
turning up and were made wel-
come. By 1964, the beautiful life
was in full swing and the four-
year Prankster trip had begun.
Some of, everything happened,
too much to tell, but the first
big adventure was the Bus. Kes-
ey, labeled the Intrepid Trav-
eler, bought a 1939 school bus
that had been converted to a
supercamperhby some fellow
with kids. The Bus was the ve-
hicle for a gigantic Prankster
allegory of life,.and since this
trip across America was to be
the ultimate, the Bus had to
be fitted ultimately.
It was: acid-inspired Day-G1o
artncovered the Board ofEduca-
tion yellow body; a system of
cameras, tape decks, speakers,
earphones and mikes with vari-
able-lag echo that would rival
Universal City covered the in-
side; various receptacles stored
marijuna, dexedrine and other
amphetamines, and the refrige-
rator brimmed with electric
kool-aid - orange juice 'laced
with LSD.
From the start, the Pranksters
were high on something -
though orange juice was ra-
tioned so that the supply would
last to New York and back -
and the freaking glory of this
whole thing created a g r o up
mind immeditely. Two things in
particular are possible to a per-
son who has experienced LSD;
he knows what everyone else
is thinking through, say, vibra-
tions, and later he also knows,
by sensing or glinpsing t h e
cosmic spirit that directs the
Sp 15 heads (12 men, three
women) headed east, pioneering
backward through America in a
Day-Glo conestoga, armed with
electronic implements, a c i d
hardtack and a great' open
Prankster'- mind. Wolfe says
their allegory had an altruis-
tic purpose:
"There was going to be a ho-
ly terror in the land. But there
would also be people who would
look up rout of their poor work-
a-day lives in some town, some
old guy, somebody's stenograph-
er, and see this bus and register
. ..delight, or just pure open
invitation'Wonder. Either way,
the Pranksters figured there was
hope for these people."
And: the Pranksters intended
to prove it - in 40-odd hours of
film, in -acid-zonked unbelieve-
able shows at gas stations and
rest areas, in dazzling decora-
tions such as the special sign for
Phoenix' (it was '64), "A Vote
for Barry is a Vote for Fun."
Kesey was the acknowledged
leader of the group, less because
he financed the trip than be-
cause he emitted a kinetic en-
ergy and a few soft-spoken cryp-
tic messages for the collective
mind. Two . ground rules were
agreed upon - that every
Prankster let every other person
"do his thing," whatever it was,
and that everything be k e p t
"out front," fear anger, bumm-
ers (bad trips), everything. Kes-
ey didn't dictate t h e s e rules;
rather he ended the discussion,
by declaring, "You're either on
the bus or off the bus."
Indeed, staying on t h e bus
was difficult, but speed, grass
and acid made it possible and
pranks and games made it tol-
erable. The most constant ex-
ercise was "rapping" - each
segment of the group mind
speaking, picking up on what
another person said or on vi-e
brations or on anything. Neal
Cassady (Dean Moriarity in
Kerouac's (On the Road)' rap-
ped incessantly as he drove -
"there's a barber going down

the highway cutting his hair at
500 miles an hour, you under-
stand." And someone else con-
tinued - "and there's a Cadillac
with Marie Antoinette" - and
so on.
So the acid-rapping Prank-
sters were "synched in," as
Wolfe says, and it was on the
Bus that they reached the Un-
spoken Thing. No one put it
into words, aloud anyway, but
the heads h a d discovered it.
Kesey wrote, "we're under cos-
mic control and have been for
r a long long time and each time
it builds, it's bigger, and it's
stronger. And then you find out
. about Cosmo, and you dis-
cover that he's running the
The Bus returned to Kesey's
home in late summer, but the
Pranksters stayed on the bus
and many more people boarded
even though it was :parked. But
Kesey realized that Cosmo, vi-
brations, and beauty should be
carried to vast numbers of peo-
ple - all of America should be
on the Bus if willing. So the
Pranksters promoted numerous
"acid tests," again from gen-
erous motives. By this time Le-
ary and Albert had established
the League for Spiritual Discov-
ery, and 'beautiful people flock-
ed to the poles of Leary's ill-
brook, New Y o rk, estate and
Kesey's California territory. Of
course Kesey was not the only
purveyor of LSD, but he and
the Pranksters introduced the
Hell's Angels to a c i d' among
others, and t h e y started the
whole phenomenon of acid rock,
light shows, mixed media freak-
outs at the acid tests.
Where were the police, federal
narcotics' agents and other au-
thorities during all of this? They
were on the scene, to be sure,
but LSD was not outlawed in
California until October, 1966.
Oh, there were a few raids -
Kesey was busted twice for pos-
session of marijuana, and he
later engineered a suicide prank
(it flopped) and fled to Mexico.
Meanwhile, Ken Babbs, tempo-,
rary leader of the Pranksters
during Kesey's flight, added a
daring dimension to an acid test
in Watts; he announced that
two bowls of kool-aid were be-
ing served, "one for little folk
and one for big f o 1 k." Thus
many people took LSD suspect-
ing it - either they had thought
the admonition meant alcohol
or they hadn't heard the an-
nouncement. The police dropped
in at this r e a 1 freak-out, of
course, but they didn't stay. The
peace. officers wouldn't have
known what to do with these
crazies, more and weirder than
usual this time.
Wolfe's chapter on the Watts
acid test, for which his book is
titled, is singularly appropriate.
He includesna lengthy account of
the experience by a girl who had
never even been high; her words
grip and enchant:
"I stood under t h e 'black'
light and drops of paint fell on
my foot and sandal, and it was
exquisite . . . it was peaceful'
and beautiful ,beyond descript-
ion. My skin had depth and tex-
ture under the light . . . a vel-
vety purple. I remember wishing
it could be that color always. (I
still do.)"
Wolfe likewise depicts a girl
on a bummer - wailing, "wrest-
ling with God," screaming an
agonized "Who cares?"
One critic has chastised Wolfe
for not editorializing about the
Watts test or about drugs, freak-
ed brains, nameless babies, and
the like. The point is, T o m
Wolfe relates it exactly as it
happened. Not all the details of
Prankster life were beautiful,
and the author has not pulled
punches; he tells, for example,
how one girl "completed h e r
trip" in Houston, about ten days

out on the Bus. "Stark naked,"
had done her thing. She roared
off into the void, and was pick-
ed up by the cops and by, and
the doors closed in the County
psychiatric ward, and that was
that, for the Pranksters were
long gone.' There were other
casualties, permanent and tem-
porary, and Wolfe spares no de-
tails of them.
If Wolfe had preached or
drawn conclusions rather than
letting every moment become
its own testimony, he could nev-
er have taken us on the Now
trip. To learn, Wolfe realizes,
we must not be told - we must
experience life. A b o u t a year
ago, Wolfe spoke of his style of
writing, asserting that "moral-
ism and political convictions
stand in the way of truth." The
Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

proves him right: because we
live it, or at least s e e it, we
judge the truth that is right for
This b o o k is a superlative
achievement for many reasons.
First, Wolfe has dared to re-
create a here and now t h a t
could only be timidly approach-
ed by most people. The exper-
ience of The Electric Kocl-Aid
Acid Test, if he had given ins-
tructions, would go something
like this: you would be told to
hold your breath and let your
heartbeat grow until it swells
and swirls around y o u, still
running the blood through your
temples - ha, temples - and
then tip-toe up (somehow it's
always up) toward, further on
toward - Edge City. It's as if
Wolfe takes the portion of your
heartbeat that is outside you

and deposits it further up the
So part of you has been to
Edge City, and the door is may-
be creaking in your hand. And
Wolfe has shown you, too, the
Now America cult, some there-
is-a-bigger-than-life c o s m i c
force, that your life is perhaps
a cell of a fingernail of a fin-
ger of a giant being. He has
likened the Prankster trip to
what the prophets of science
and religion and literature have
revealed through the ages. How
closely the Prankster experience
parallels Hesse's Journey to the
East; how similar Kesey's and
Weber's descriptions of Cosmo.
And, miraculously, all of this
is done in words. Words bor-
rowed f r o m Pranksters' notes
and letters; paradoxical non-
sense words; words making col-

ors and vibrations; words rap-
ping and propping doors open.
Finally, why this cult, why
this trip, why this epic? Wolfe
has the answer, though his doc-
ument is more than sufficient
self-justification. In an ex-
planatory note about The Elec-
tric Kool-Aid Acid T e s t, the
writer states that his main fear
for America is the burgeoning
affluence of our society and the
leisure that the future prom -
'ises. Whatever the acid genera-
t i o n is reacting to, whatever
prompts this risky experimenta-
tion, Wolfe sees that mind and
consciousness must expand in
some rough proportion to the
decreasing demands of mental
and physical work.
This is not to say that the
book is Wolfe's blueprint for
the future, or even for n o w.

Rather, the now of it is that
these kids (t h e y are mostly
kids) see their parents living
straight out of, say, O'Hara or
Updike, hurrying through inane,
empty leisure. This emptiness
can only increase, they reason,
so the young seek to fill this
vacuum by tapping the resourc-
es of their minds, using ingenu-
ity, creativity and sensibility to
fill the void they feel around
As for the future, nobody
dares predict. However it is done,
some persons will continue to
discover Cosmo, and Wolfe has
reinforced our h o p e for the
realization- But he has not tak-
en us into o u r future: Tom
Wolfe has simply shown how
some few people took an Ameri-
can county fair trip and encoun-
tered an ultimate.


1: >.

Dksbooksbooksbooks bools
Ken iston looks at the other side of us

Young Radicals: Notes on
Committed Youth, by Kenneth
Keniston. Harcourt, Brace &
World, $5.95.
Kenneth Keniston's first book,
The Uncommitted (published
last year, is already appearing_
on most reading lists for intro-
ductory psychology courses. -His
reputation as an observer of the
youth scene and his popularity.
among those who;are his sub-
jects is going to be further en-
hanced by his second book,
Young Radicals.
The topic of his first effort
was the disaffected college stu-
dent who expressed his aliena-
tion from American social life
by withdrawal and privatism. In
Young Radicals, he turns his at-

tention to a different form of
alienation. He spent an entire
summer interviewing 14 young
people-11 males and 3 women
-who organized and ran the
1967 Vietnam Summer project.
The project, a nationwide at-
tempt to build up opposition to
the war- among predominantly
middle-class citizens, gave Ken-
iston the chance to watch the
articulation of political aliena-
tion in positive actions.
He uses the method of "col-
lective biography" in tracing
back to childhood the roots of
the young radicals' commitment
to work for social change.
Through skillful use of tape-
recorded quotations and his own.
interpolations, he creates a de
velopmental theory of radical-
Keniston himself is a psychol-

ogist, but he goes beyond his
field to fuse sociological, politi-
cal and historical thought. "As
with all events studied as they
naturally occur, the ongoing h: -
tory of the New Left cannot be
explained with concepts and
theories of any one discipline,"
he warns.
The young radicals' lives are
set off from those of their more
conventional peers by the occur-
ance of not one but two crises,
during adolescence. Most teen-
agers handle the problems of
puberty by, submerging them-
selves in the alternative subcul-
ture of their peers by' denying
their urges and restricting indi-
The radicals, however, in the
main, come well-equipped by
their families with core values
to cope with adolescent crises of
sexuality and 'breaking family
bonds. But no sooner is this first
crisis resolved than a pre-ado-
lescent pattern of success is
adopted. If people iof these back-
grounds subsequently have "the
growing awareness that their
lives are inadequate," such ali-
enation may be coped with by
covert or overt opposition to Es-
tablished institutional life.
Keniston attempts to put this
psychological process into his-
torical perspective. He sees the
emergence of a stage between

adolescence and adulthood-the'
stage of youth-where a mora-
torium on success-striving has
been declared. Spawned of post-
war affluence, ambivalent in the
face of a technology of death,
the youth are still in the process
of defining themselves. -
In the brief year since Viet-
nam Summer ended, the efforts
of the politically alienated to
create new institutions have run
violently afoul of the nation's
elite. The Pentagon march, Co-
lumbia, Telegraph Ave., Chicago
Hilton-these are only the sym-
bols of an increasingly violent
conflict being generated out of
new historical forces that are
abraiding and corroding each
Keniston's methods may not
please the more traditionalist

among social science research-
ers. He is more intuitive than
empirical. Often the things he
says and conclusions he draws
appear so patently obvious that
on first blush they are superfi-
cial commentaries.
Yet his approach to these dis-
turbing events shows a real ef-
fort at new understanding. No
vocabulary, no set of concepts,
no theoretical relations yet exist
for the phenomena he describes.
He cannot afford yet to be so-
phisticated on virgin territory,
for fear a complex analysis will
obscure the fundamental impor-
tance oflhis subject.
Keniston literally presents us
with his notes and states his
opinions. But we are free, or ra-
ther, compelled to make our own
Judgments.. '

ever f
As he
of th
is in

Poor jude-ment
Y STEVE WILDSTROM the precinct lockup? Lincoln's
apparent obsession with snipers,
my of a Riot: A Detroit which permeates the book,
e's Report, by James Lin- strains the credulity of the
McGraw-Hill, $5.95. reader.
Lincoln concedes that the De-
enile court officials con- troit riot was not started by so-
d with the problem of called "professional agitators,"
to do until the judge but, despite the extensive find-
when a riot-strikes their ings to the contrary by the Ker-
may find Judge Lincoln's ner Commission, he can com-
informative, if not inter- fortably say: "A few profession-
It is doubtful, however, al agitators moved in and took
er this deceptively-titled advantage of a riot situation
holds any appeal what- and played a very considerable
for anyone else. part in enlarging the original
riot area. They also played a
her than being an ana- part in spreading it throughout
f a riot, the book is in other areas of Detroit." Lincoln,
a detailed description of of course, does not know who
Wayne County Juvenile these "professional agitators"
s operations during the were, nor can he explain the
Detroit riot and its con- basis for his remarkable con-
icy plans for the next riot. clusion.
never tires of telling his In the last analysis, the book
s, Judge Lincoln as judge proves oily 'one thing: With
ie juvenile division of Judge Lincoln presiding, juve-
e County Probate oCurt, nile justice in Wayne County, if
charge of the Juvenile not-blind, is severely myopic.

Zen, Yoga, Tarot
Alchemy, Astrology, Theosophy
Tarot, Magic Parapasychology
215 S. STATE .. 2nd Floor
U -::f) 7O :"?t)!-:::32'. ,.-'i E -:::t) " Y t>L:-yr[-:yo U


0...but a bit much, folks

Lincoln's book might -have
been useful for juvenile court
officials were its credibility not
seriously strained by a number
of asides slipped in by, the good
judge. For example, he writes:
"In one precinct in Detroit,
hundreds of prisoners were
locked up for several days. The
white and colored snipers group-
ed together in friendly fashion."
Surely, one must expect a
judge to have more regard for
fact than that. More than a year
after the Detroit riot, no one
has come to trial for sniping. To
he best of my knowledge, no
one was ever formally charged
with sniping and there certain
ly were no more than one or
two arrests on the charge. How,
then, did "white and colored
snipers" form friendly groups in

Today's writers ...
graduate student in the Amer-
ican Culture program and is,
to be sure, a fan of Tom Wolfe.
editor of The Daily, edits-and
occasionally writes for-The
Sunday Book Page.
Daily executive editor DAVID
KNOKE is a senior in the lit
erary college majoring in psy-
chology and sociology.
' As an Associated Press re-
porter in Detroit two summers
ago, Daily managing editor
the '67 riots 'firsthand aspart
of the newsteam that covered
the riots for the AP.


4 The Pump House Gang, by Tom Wolfe.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $5.95.
One of the' virtues-oh, praise be!-of Tom
Wolfe - rattattatta -articles is their SPECIAL
insights, which consist primarily-yes-of their
unique presentation. Wolfe dissects-slice, knife,
cut, aaaaaaah-cultural carcasses with a perfect
temper and great perceptual selection. You can
pick up a copy of New York, thumb through it
'til you see his name, and immerse yourself in the
hot rodders or the society boys or the fakey
political types. He won't record birthdate, height,
weight, quotes. He'll jump into the character,
turn him inside out, tell him what he's doing and
4 why. His Richard Lester- approach to non-fiction'
in print can exhilirate, reaXll
But there's a point where it gets you down.
There's only so much you can take. Tom Wolfe
can pour all his images into too big a bucket, and
they will swirl together and his very special
insights become blurred in the stew. Specific
flavors will get crushed in the over spicing. Mag-
azine pieces are for magazines; eat them one at-
a time.
And so, The Pump House Gang won't really
make it. There is, simply, too much Wolfe at
once. The same might have been the case with

far superior to what it was in his earlier work, but
it has also developed so much that taken all at
once it becomes cloying:
But Mr. Wolfe must be given credit for the
perfection that caused his downfall. That is, his
journalistic advances since Streamlined Baby
have been so great that his best in this selection
far outshines his previous high.
Two essays in particular mark the recent Wolfe
as a new Journalist so on top of things that his
words become part of the scene he is viewing.
The title story-a puzzled, frightened, hesitant
investigation of the Southern California beach
set-is superb. Equally praiseworthy is a Hugh
Hefner piece - Hugh Hefner pieces are now
standard for- collections of cultural criticism -
that defines the super-Playboy in new, surprising-
ly perceptive terms: as a cultural dropout, a pro-
duct of current social phenomena that turn the
man inward to such a degree that his self-appre-
ciation is no longer predicted on how others
appraise him. In fact, if they don't regard him
at all, Hefner is doing his best. Why does he need
you and me to tell him he's great when he trusts
himself as a better judge?
But, on the whole, it is a good thing that
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, the publisher, decided
to release The Pump House Gang simultaneously
with The Electric Cool-Aid Ocid Test. The cri-





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