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 Readers of Food of the Gods (1992) will recall McKenna's diverting claim that the ingestion in ancient times of hallucinogenic mushrooms spurred human consciousness into wakefulness and sophistication. Here, this consummate storyteller tells of his first life-changing encounter with magic mushrooms, in 1971 in the Colombian Amazon. Veteran of the Berkeley riots of the 1960's and of a self- imposed exile in India and Indonesia--during which he smoked pot, studied alternative religions, collected butterflies, and steered clear of the FBI--McKenna was inspired in 1971 to journey to La Chorrera, Colombia, in search of the psychedelic brew ayahuasca and any plants containing the hallucinogenic drug DMT. Joined by his devoted 18-year-old brother, Dennis, and by several other Americans, McKenna reached the Putumayo River only to be sidetracked by a chance ingestion of some magic mushrooms growing in a field. One mushroom led to another, and soon the wildly philosophizing Dennis had devised an experiment to determine whether the production of a cicada-like noise could bind the wisdom of the mushroom with his own DNA. The local Indians may have laughed as the Americans stumbled through the rain forest chasing flying saucers and talking to themselves, but McKenna's newfound conviction that the mushroom showed the way to higher consciousness determined the very uneven course of his future life and career. Now, 20 years later--on the brink of divorce from a woman the mushroom told him was his destiny, and pressed to earn money for their two kids--McKenna relates his journey of psychedelic self- discovery and study with refreshing candor, humor, and occasional rue. All of which makes this, if hardly a convincing scientific treatise (``My dear young friend, these ideas are not even fallacious,'' said Gunther Stent, a molecular geneticist at Berkeley), certainly a captivating, all-too-human tale. Here's one man who proudly--even passionately--inhaled.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-250545-9
Page count: 244pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993


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