A self-styled seeker of Truth sends postcards from his stoned journey a generation ago.
Milwaukee native Tarnoff spent three youthful years in the days of Nixon and Jomo Kenyatta on the hippie trek from Bangkok and Chaing Mai to Stockholm, Amsterdam, Paris, Athens and Crete, Nairobi and Mombasa, Bombay and Benares, Kathmandu and finally to Bali. He lugged his guitar and, in a rucksack (certainly never a suitcase), his collection of harmonicas. He rendered the blues on the mouth organ at virtuoso level, he indicates. Ingesting copious quantities of pot and a bit of opium, he early on came upon verities like “guilt is good,” “people don’t know what jerks they are,” and “everyone is wrong about everything.” In his classic quest, Terry encountered fearsome ants, crazy bats, cockroaches in the loo, holy men, and con men. Swinging his pangi, he indulged in much bangi in his shamba. He became, in other words, at one with the natives as well as his fellow travelers. And he did even better with women. Our author bedded Emmanuelle, Eva, Amélie, Sigrid, Elizabeth, devoted Martine, and ever-present Annika. In the story of Terry and his pirates, of Terry and his bipolar parent, of Terry searching for manhood or at least a touch of wisdom, does love finally conquer? It’s a romance as much as a Beat Baedeker for yesteryear’s hipster hikers. It’s a picaresque tale of blues, drugs, and women, tinged, perhaps, with a hint of fantasy and a whiff of pathos—so what could be bad? Tarnoff is now a screenwriter.
Sure to arouse envy in those, now gray, who neither tripped at home nor took the disorienting trip to the Orient: a facile, vivid, novelistic yarn.