Joel Agee, Author . Shoemaker & Hoard $27.50 (416p) ISBN 978-1-59376-045-8

Born in New York City in 1940, Agee (son of writer James Agee and author of Twelve Years ) spent much of his childhood in East Germany with his mother; half-brother; and German Communist expatriate stepfather, Bodo Uhse. After 12 years, Agee's mother divorced Uhse and took her two sons back to New York. Agee dabbled in various jobs, always aware that one day, he'd be a writer. He landed in New York's East Village in the mid-'60s, when the pot and LSD scene was taking off. Once Agee came into a small inheritance, he and his lover, Susan, left for Europe. They wandered the European hippie trail, forming impromptu communes, as Agee ingested vast quantities of LSD and sampled assorted religions. Susan finally had enough and took their daughter back to the States. Alas, here's where Agee's sharp, precise descriptions of growing up as a Cold War baby and grooving as a '60s hippie end. Agee stayed abroad and yielded to madness, which culminated in a full-scale breakdown in London in 1971. Accosting strangers to tell them he's God, reading street signs as divine messages, Agee's demons demanded he suffer to redeem the world. Readers suffer, too, wading through hundreds of pages of Agee's nightmares and hallucinations. By the end, when Agee explains that this book is about "getting lost and finding the way back," readers may be too exhausted to care. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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