Blogs » Flotsam and Jetsam » I came, I saw, I zonked out

Subscribe


Image

I just read – ingested, more like – "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," Tom Wolfe’s study of the psychedelic era of the 60s. Imagine test pilots from "The Right Stuff" on acid and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. It’s e.e. cummings meets Yoko Ono meets William Faulkner meets bathroom wall scribes at a rave with day-glo paint.

An invented sub-culture needs an invented vocabulary. What exactly is “grock”? There is even some kind of invented punctuation mark that looks like a domino tile with a set of sixes. Sometimes the domino is on its side, sometimes standing up. Sometimes the domino is stacked on another domino. The only thing missing is multi-colored text, sound effects and scratch-and-sniff panels.

So, is it worth reading? I’m certainly in no position to tell Tom Wolfe how to write, but I have to admit that I skimmed a lot. There’s a reason why rational people avoid drug addicts – they don’t make sense. And if your book is mostly recreating the patois of drug-addled Merry Prankskters led by Ken Kesey, well, you get the flavor after a paragraph or two.

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" seemed like the right kind of companion reader. If you’re familiar with Doonesbury, you’ve met Hunter Thompson as Duke.

This is a despicable book by a despicable man. I found one passage worth recording out of 200 pages of gonzo journalism, if being in a drug-induced stupor is what "gonzo journalism" means. The book purports to be an account of an assignment to cover a car race. All I know is he abused substances I never even heard of, abused people of all walks of life, and abused the English language worse than public-school in-service providers.