Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000

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Can't Find My Way Home is a history of illicit drug use in America in the second half of the twentieth century and a personal journey through the drug experience. It's the remarkable story of how America got high, the epic tale of how the American Century transformed into the Great Stoned Age.
Martin Torgoff begins with the avant-garde worlds of bebop jazz and the emerging Beat writers, who embraced the consciousness-altering properties of marijuana and other underground drugs. These musicians and writers midwifed the age of marijuana in the 1960s even as Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (later Ram Dass) discovered the power of LSD, ushering in the psychedelic era. While President John Kennedy proclaimed a New Frontier and NASA journeyed to the moon, millions of young Americans began discovering their own new frontiers on a voyage to inner space. What had been the province of a fringe avant-garde only a decade earlier became a mass movement that affected and altered mainstream America.
And so America sped through the century, dropping acid and eating magic mushrooms at home, shooting heroin and ingesting amphetamines in Vietnam, snorting cocaine in the disco era, smoking crack cocaine in the devastated inner cities of the 1980s, discovering MDMA (Ecstasy) in the rave culture of the 1990s.
Can't Find My Way Home tells this extraordinary story by weaving together first-person accounts and historical background into a narrative vast in scope yet rich in intimate detail. Among those who describe their experiments with consciousness are Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Robert Stone, Wavy Gravy, Grace Slick, Oliver Stone, Peter Coyote, David Crosby, and many others from Haight Ashbury to Studio 54 to housing projects and rave warehouses.
But Can't Find My Way Home does not neglect the recovery movement, the war on drugs, and the ongoing debate over drug policy. And even as Martin Torgoff tells the story of his own addiction and recovery, he neither romanticizes nor demonizes drugs. If he finds them less dangerous than the moral crusaders say they are, he also finds them less benign than advocates insist.
Illegal drugs changed the cultural landscape of America, and they continue to shape our country, with enormous consequences. This ambitious, fascinating book is the story of how that happened.
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About the author

Martin Torgoff has been a contributing editor at Interview and a producer for CNN "World Beat." He is a documentary filmmaker and the author of several books, including the bestselling Elvis: We Love You Tender and American Fool: The Roots and Improbable Rise of John Cougar Mellencamp, which won an ASCAP Deems Taylor award. He lives in New York City with his wife and son.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
May 13, 2004
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Pages
560
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ISBN
9780743258630
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 20th Century
Social Science / General
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Throughout the twentieth century, pop songs, magazine articles, plays, posters, and novels in the United States represented intelligence alternately as empowering or threatening. In Inventing the Egghead, cultural historian Aaron Lecklider offers a sharp, entertaining narrative of these sources to reveal how Americans who were not part of the traditional intellectual class negotiated the complicated politics of intelligence within an accelerating mass culture.

Central to the book is the concept of brainpower—a term used by Lecklider to capture the ways in which journalists, writers, artists, and others invoked intelligence to embolden the majority of Americans who did not have access to institutions of higher learning. Expressions of brainpower, Lecklider argues, challenged the deeply embedded assumptions in society that intellectual capacity was the province of an educated elite, and that the working class was unreservedly anti-intellectual. Amid changes in work, leisure, and domestic life, brainpower became a means for social transformation in the modern United States. The concept thus provides an exciting vantage point from which to make fresh assessments of ongoing debates over intelligence and access to quality education.

Expressions of brainpower in the twentieth century engendered an uncomfortable paradox: they diminished the value of intellectuals (the hapless egghead, for example) while establishing claims to intellectual authority among ordinary women and men, including labor activists, women workers, and African Americans. Reading across historical, literary, and visual media, Lecklider mines popular culture as an arena where the brainpower of ordinary people was commonly invoked and frequently contested.

!--[if gte mso 9] ![endif]-- The gripping story of the rise of early drug culture in America, from the author of the acclaimed Can't Find My Way Home

With an intricate storyline that unites engaging characters and themes and reads like a novel, Bop Apocalypse details the rise of early drug culture in America by weaving together the disparate elements that formed this new and revolutionary segment of the American social fabric.

Drawing upon his rich decades of writing experience, master storyteller Martin Torgoff connects the birth of jazz in New Orleans, the first drug laws, Louis Armstrong, Mezz Mezzrow, Harry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, swing, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, the Savoy Ballroom, Reefer Madness, Charlie Parker, the birth of bebop, the rise of the Beat Generation, and the coming of heroin to Harlem. Aficionados of jazz, the Beats, counterculture, and drug history will all find much to enjoy here, with a cast of characters that includes vivid and memorable depictions of Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jackie McLean, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Borroughs, Jack Kerouac, Herbert Huncke, Terry Southern, and countless others.

Bop Apocalypse is also a living history that teaches us much about the conflicts and questions surrounding drugs today, casting many contemporary issues in a new light by connecting them back to the events of this transformative era. At a time when marijuana legalization is rapidly becoming a reality, it takes us back to the advent of marijuana prohibition, when the templates of modern drug law, policy, and culture were first established, along with the concomitant racial stereotypes. As a new opioid epidemic sweeps through white working- and middle-class communities, it brings us back to when heroin first arrived on the streets of Harlem in the 1940s. And as we debate and grapple with the gross racial disparities of mass incarceration, it puts into sharp and provocative focus the racism at the very roots of our drug war.

Having spent a lifetime at the nexus of drugs and music, Torgoff reveals material never before disclosed and offers new insights, crafting and contextualizing Bop Apocalypse into a truly novel contribution to our understanding of jazz, race, literature, drug culture, and American social and cultural history.


“An engrossing account” of the history of LSD, the psychedelic 1960s, and the clandestine mind games of the CIA (William Burroughs).
 
Beginning with the discovery of LSD in 1943, this “monumental social history of psychedelia” tracks the most potent drug known to science—from its use by the government during the paranoia of the Cold War to its spill-over into a revolutionary antiestablishment recreation during the Vietnam War—setting the stage for one of the great ideological battles of the decade (The Village Voice).
 
In the intervening years, the CIA launched a massive covert research program in the hope that LSD would serve as an espionage weapon; psychiatric pioneers came to believe that acid would shed light on the perplexing problems of mental illness; and a new generation of writers and artists in countercultural transition sought to break the “mind-forged manacles” of cultural repression—among them, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, the Beatles, Allen Ginsberg, William Mellon Hitchcock, and Abbie Hoffman. Painting an indelible portrait of an unforgettable era and using startling information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Acid Dreams also exposes one of the most bizarre, shocking, and often tragic episodes in American history.
 
“An important historical synthesis of the spread and effects of a drug that served as a central metaphor for an era.” —John Sayles
 
“Marvelously detailed . . . loaded with startling revelations.” —Los Angeles Daily News
As long as there has been culture, there has been counterculture. At times it moves deep below the surface of things, a stealth mode of being all but invisible to the dominant paradigm; at other times it’s in plain sight, challenging the status quo; and at still other times it erupts in a fiery burst of creative–or destructive–energy to change the world forever.

But until now the countercultural phenomenon has been one of history’s great blind spots. Individual countercultures have been explored, but never before has a book set out to demonstrate the recurring nature of counterculturalism across all times and societies, and to illustrate its dynamic role in the continuous evolution of human values and cultures.

Countercultural pundit and cyberguru R. U. Sirius brilliantly sets the record straight in this colorful, anecdotal, and wide-ranging study based on ideas developed by the late Timothy Leary with Dan Joy. With a distinctive mix of scholarly erudition and gonzo passion, Sirius and Joy identify the distinguishing characteristics of countercultures, delving into history and myth to establish beyond doubt that, for all their surface differences, countercultures share important underlying principles: individualism, anti-authoritarianism, and a belief in the possibility of personal and social transformation.

Ranging from the Socratic counterculture of ancient Athens and the outsider movements of Judaism, which left indelible marks on Western culture, to the Taoist, Sufi, and Zen Buddhist countercultures, which were equally influential in the East, to the famous countercultural moments of the last century–Paris in the twenties, Haight-Ashbury in the sixties, Tropicalismo, women’s liberation, punk rock–to the cutting-edge countercultures of the twenty-first century, which combine science, art, music, technology, politics, and religion in astonishing (and sometimes disturbing) new ways, Counterculture Through the Ages is an indispensable guidebook to where we’ve been . . . and where we’re going.
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