Just the thing for a budding myconaut. A few copies will doubtless make the rounds at the DEA, too.

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SHROOM

A CULTURAL HISTORY OF THE MAGIC MUSHROOM

An exuberant, approving account of psilocybin and its kin for those of us living in what debut author Letcher calls “the Mushroom Age.”

Others would put that magical time back a few decades to the period when Timothy Leary was running around with madcap subjects of the Psilocybin Project, among them Allen Ginsberg, who found in a good dose of magic ’shrooms authorization to become the Messiah. (“He intended to walk the streets of Cambridge instructing people to stop hating one another. Careful redirection persuaded him against this somewhat inadvisable course of action.”) Still, Letcher ably charts the maiden voyages and great space-trucking expeditions of “myconauts” such as Gordon Wasson, the banker who took profound interest in the effects of mushroom consumption on history and ventured strange theories about Jesus, the Russians and suchlike topics in the course of his fungal odyssey, which began in the late 1920s. Wasson had heirs, of a sort, in Leary (who never met a weird idea he didn’t like) and in the poet Robert Graves, who enjoyed sleeping with whatever hippie chicks crossed his path in the ’60s even though he didn’t much enjoy the drug himself. (Graves advocated mushroom tripping at key moments such as the onset of puberty and the approach of death, but added, “Not that I should care to enroll myself in any such cult.”) Profiling with enthusiasm such relatively recent myconauts as the late Terence McKenna, who wedded psychedelia to cyberia during the 1980s and ’90s, Letcher laments that there’s no big, Leary-like figure to lead the mushroom charge today. He makes it clear, though, that many devotees around the world still enjoy the “chemical jiggery-pokery” of replacing alpha waves with beta waves, knocking down serotonin feedback loops and otherwise short-circuiting their heads in the interest of finding what lies beyond.

Just the thing for a budding myconaut. A few copies will doubtless make the rounds at the DEA, too.

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-082828-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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