On the Bus: The Complete Guide to the Legendary Trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the Birth of the Counterculture

Paul Perry, Author, Ken Babbs, Author, Ron Bivert, Illustrator Thunder's Mouth Press $21.95 (195p) ISBN 978-0-938410-91-1
In the effort to offer a ``complete guide'' to the legendary psychedelic bus trip taken by Kesey and 13 other ``pranksters'' in 1964, this book lacks only a bound-in tab of LSD-25 to make it the real thing. Candid and whacky photos taken during the trip convey a generation's abandonment to drug-induced ecstasy in a way that words cannot--although words there are aplenty here. Interviews with participants and witnesses, a hybrid essay/fantasy by prankster Babbs, excerpts from Tom Wolfe 's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test attempt to capture the unruly energies of a motley but winning crew. Of most interest to serious fans of those days are the interviews by Perry (former editor of Running magazine), in which, for example, the literary origins of Kesey's band in Palo Alto--Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, Gordon Lish, Wallace Stegner at nearby Stanford--are restored to the myth. (Stone's refusal to aggrandize the ``birth of counterculture''--``Still, we were rather pleased with ourselves. . . . We kept our world small''--is a nice counterbalance to the broader claims made elsewhere.) Perry's careful reconstruction of the nine-city trip has its wonders, too, such as the meeting with a surly, intoxicated Jack Kerouac who, upon seeing a ``throne'' prepared for him by the Pranksters with an American flag draped over it, ``mute and quiet . . . took the flag and folded it up neatly and put it over the side.'' (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
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