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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

by Tom Wolfe
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968
Reissued by Picador, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-42759-7
$16.00

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For a start, Kesey's own life with the Merry Pranksters is perhaps the consummate example of a phenomenon that, in 1968, baffled the national imagination: the transformation of the "promising middle-class youth with all the advantages" into what was popularly known as "the hippie." Kesey was more than promising. He was a Golden Boy of the West-a scholar, actor, star athlete, and one of the outstanding novelists of his generation-when he burst forth as an experimenter with powerful new hallucinogenic drugs, leader of the Merry Pranksters, and, finally, fugitive from the FBI, the California police, and the Mexican Federales.

Tom Wolfe, a journalist already widely known for his exuberant portraiture of the American Bizarre, plunged into the psychedelic world of the Pranksters and emerged with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a now-classic portrait of the coterie which gave the hippie world of the 1960s much of its philosophy and vocabulary. He recounts their romp across America in the first psychedelic bus, their alliance with the Hell's Angels, their Be-elzebubbling takeover of a Unitarian Church convention, their conversion of the biggest anti-Vietnam rally of all time into a freak-out, their zany games of hide-and-seek from the law in two countries-all with a depth of exploration and a stylistic inventiveness which make The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test one of the most memorable journalistic odysseys of our time.

Reviews

"The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the book . . . the pushing, ballooning heart of the matter . . . Vibrating dazzle!" -Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times

"A Day-Glo book; illuminating, merry, surreal!" -The Washington Post

"Among journalists, Wolfe is a genuine poet; what makes him so good is his ability to get inside, to not merely describe (although he is a superb reporter), but to get under the skin of a phenomenon and transmit its metabolic rhythm." -Newsweek

"The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is an amazing book . . . A book that definitely gives Wolfe the edge on the non-fiction novel." -Village Voice

"Some consider Mailer our greatest journalist; my candidate is Wolfe." -Studs Terkel, BookWeek

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

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