ACID DREAMS: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion by Martin A. & Brace Shlain Lee

ACID DREAMS: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion

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A trashy natural history of LSD from a switched-on team of anti-establishment authors obviously intent on generating more heat than light. In slapdash, random fashion, Lee and Shlain track the emergence of the hallucinogenic compound, which was discovered in Switzerland during WW II. Unfortunately, their main goals seem to be glamorizing LSD's decidedly dubious contributions to the drug-oriented counterculture of the 1960's and viewing with exaggerated alarm its presumptive abuse by the CIA. Also a downer is the authors' willingness to rely on less than credible sources whose testimony they tend to offer in turned-on terms comprehensible only to acidheads. Rating scarcely a mention, though, is the fact that LSD is an illegal as well as dangerous substance. Indeed, Lee and Shlain soft-pedal the psychedelic's outlaw aspects, characterizing it as ""widely misunderstood."" With ill-concealed relish, they also recount the antics of name users, including the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, and G. Gordon Liddy. Whether there was a CIA connection that played an important role in the distribution of LSD at the height of the anti-war movement remains an open question, at least on the basis of evidence provided here. Nor do the authors make a particularly persuasive case for the proposition that LSD was a factor in the decline of rebellious militance in the wake of Woodstock and the Kent State killings. As a practical matter, the murky, haphazard narrative promises to produce even greater misunderstanding of mind-altering drugs in general and LSD in particular. A bad trip.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1986
Publisher: Grove