The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America

Don Lattin, Author . Harper One $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-165593-7

It’s hard for folks who didn’t live through the 1960s to imagine what it was like to live in a drug- and sex-soaked culture, one where traditional values were drowned in a rush of hedonism and hippiedom. Names like Timothy Leary and Ram Dass bring back all the memories and all the conflicts. In this beautifully constructed study, Lattin (Jesus Freaks ) brings together four of the most memorable figures from that period. Each comes across as a flawed genius and irrepressible fanatic. The author says of Leary that he “activate[d] conservative anxiety in America,” but this could easily describe any of the players in this grim and gritty story. Laying out their stories side by side in roughly chronological form, the author traces the lives of each of the players, exposing a kind of dysfunctional relationship among them that is not part of our corporate memory. This is a fast-moving, dispassionate recounting of a seminal period in our history, and all in all, a wonderful book. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/09/2009
Release date: 01/01/2010
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-06-165594-4
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-196623-1
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