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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amy hendricks
I keep thinking I was born at the wrong time. I missed the expatriat scene of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, the Beats, and Kesey and his counterculture scene. Wolfe's book may not be as good as being there, but it does help those of us born far too late to understand and enjoy the scene. Wolfe writes sympathetically and pretty much from the point of view of the Pranksters, as if he had been there for all of it (he wasn't). Wolfe is a fine journalist, and he does a great job here. I think this is a very important book, and I recommend it along with: Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Babbs' On the Bus (a nonfictional account of the bus trip); Burroughs' Junky; Kerouac's On the Road and The Dharma Bums; and Hunter Thompson's Hell's Angels (which I read right after Wolfe's book). Together they might help the late born Beat understand and live in the world they missed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jelisa sterling smith
Great book that provides a colorful, detailed perspective into America's history and the rising counterculture in the 1950s and 1960s. Wolfe's portrayal of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters is a riveting tale written in such a way that it pulls in the reader and makes one feel as if he/she is experiencing the story firsthand. Intriguing sociological study of one group in society who came together around LSD and other drugs, which sparked a belief system.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lachezar
Maybe I was born too late to really follow the works, maybe my distance from the Merry Prankster mentality prohibits my appreciation for what has been written. Sadly, this was one of the slowest reads I have ever had. I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with the Pranksters or what they were trying to accomplish. They seemed to go so far off the end of the spectrum that their message was lost on me. I suppose I'm not ready to drop out yet.
That being said, the fact that anyone was there to document what happened is a saving grace. I was happy to read about a time in American History that I did not live through or really ever hear about. The information was interesting as was the actual activities and motivations.
I just wasn't able to connect.
How to Win Friends & Influence People (Miniature Editions) :: Cómo Ganar Amigos E Influir Sobre Las Personas (Spanish Edition) :: Detective Grant Abduction Mysteries - Snatched Super Boxset :: BEWARE THE PAST a gripping crime thriller with a huge twist :: A gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
burgess lepage
At first, reading this book made my brain hurt. After a while, I grooved to the flow and grokked it fully. Actually, I would imagine I might understand this book better if I had ever taken LSD, which I haven't. Honestly, I wasn't even born when all of this happened. I wish I had been. It seems like an excellent scene.
The writing begins semi-journalistically, but quickly devolves into a drug-soaked rambling that's just barely intelligible, until, as I said, you get into it. I mean, really into it. Wolf's words makes one *almost* able to understand what an acid trip might be like. It's an entirely different way of thinking.
I think this book is essential to understanding the era.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
daniella calvimontes
A highly recommended read about the rise of the West Coast drug culture in the 60's. Ken Kesey's windfall from his "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" book acts as the catalyst to the whole thing. From LSD laced kool-aid, through to the Prankster' all night parties - music provided by the new band "The Grateful Dead", to hanging out with the Hell's Angels, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, The Beatles (not quite), falling foul of the law and the resulting flee south of the border. Wolfe does an excellent job bringing it all together...well worth reading and I'm sure for some there will be moments of nostalgia. Newsweek rates it "An American Classic"...absolutely. Essential reading for any one interested in this chapter of American, and ultimately world, history.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessica bosma
This book is a must read for those of you
who ever wondered where the hippie movement
of the 60's in the Haight got its start. As
excellently chronicled by a young Tom Wolfe,
the beats of the 50's planted the seeds of what
was to become the psychedelic movement. The
thing I like about the beats was that they were
a bunch of intelligentia who made no bones about
the fact that they totally rejected the Eisenhower
50's mentality which held America under siege.
Wolfe does a fine job of emphasizing the theatrics
of the Merry Pranksters. These were more than
a bunch of druged out drifters, these were people
on a mission to spread awareness: to help awaken America
from it's post war slumber. "Go with the flow": now
there's a motto to live by!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
nikki morse
Of course historical content is rich and plentiful in this book. The Watt's Riot, the Berkley anti-war rally, the Beatles, Hell's Angels and the Trip's Festival and much more are mentioned. However, the writing style of Tom Wolfe made this book a bit difficult to delve into with continued motivation. It's understood that Wolfe was attempting to create the atmosphere for the book; however it really made the book less enjoyable and a bit confusing at times. Wolfe's writing style appeared to have no rhyme or reason, as was probably the point since those in the book were usually under the influence of drugs, but it was found to be hard to follow and frankly, quite annoying. His constant use of improper grammar and reference to artists and other historical figures with no explanation as to what he's referring to. I think this book would be most enjoyed by someone who can relate to the '60s and not someone who wants a better understanding. Or perhaps you have to be stoned, I'm not sure, I mostly found it annoying.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ken ichi
I felt like I fell right into the acid scene circa 1960+ as I read through this delirious adventure. It seems too outrageous to be true at times, coming from the personal accounts of the Pranksters and the author, but mostly from the Prankster's written and video records. The great thing about the Merry Pranksters is that they took video and sound equipment everywhere with them and many were writers so the records of their adventures exist beyond the almost certainly hazy personal recollections.

So the acid tests were really conducted, and the Merry Pranksters were a real group of crazy intellectuals. As many reviewers have said, this book has by far the best descriptions of acid trips than any I've ever read before. Yes, there is some gobbledy-gook and strange punctuation but it all adds to the overall uniquely dramatic effect of the book. You can't expect a High School English teacher's grammar in a book detailing acid adventures.

This book is also an excellent insight into birth of the hippies' drug culture and the events that led up to the peak and eventual downfall of the hippy pandemonium in the sixties. What is special about this story is that it details and explains the events leading up to the mass consumption and popularity of acid, prior the late 60's and prior to it being made illegal in most states. Nobody even knew what the stuff was or that anything like it existed at the time the Merry Pranksters first got hold of it. I would venture to say most people would have no idea how the acid revolution started and this is the key to finding out, while having a great time reading a book about the spawning of a unique American culture, which reads pretty fast for 400+ pages.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
gary bunker
My journalist heroes are usually the lefties who expose the horrible outcomes of greed. You know the type: Upton Sinclair, Michael Moore, and Amy Goodman. They pop the tinsel-draped myths of corporations and nations, and reveal the horrible outcomes of excessive power. It was hard, then, to read a conservative journalist's skewering of my own 1960s countercultural heroes. Ken Kesey and his band of experimental hippies get fully cynical treatment at the skilled hands of Wolfe. In Wolfe's hands the hippies are daft and naïve, out of touch with the world they want to save, and out of touch with themselves.

It's an extreme portrait of an exaggerated and unusual bunch of hippies, but an effective one nonetheless. You might even see in this book some of the reasons why the far fringes of the movement failed to win over a larger audience, and also why the Nixon/Reagan/Bush backlash had an easy target. Ah--but that is the problem with Wolfe's book: he's chosen a slow-moving and ripe piece of fruit. It's easy to lampoon the words of people who are high on marijuana or hallucinating on LSD. From the outside these little trips (as well as their greater voyage) might seem confused and pointless. But in the process of such dismissals, Wolfe misses what was indeed one of the most revolutionary and powerful movements to enter American culture.

The book remains funny and well-written. It's also a key historical document. But here's my question: it is really about the hippies? Or does it instead foreshadow the rise of the conservative culture war?
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nick douglas
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a novel about the hippy/psychedelic age in the 60’s and 70’s. This book almost defined the generation. The story follows a back and forth storyline skipping between time and descriptions. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a novel by Tom Wolfe which gives another view of the Merry Pranksters and Ken Kesey, and it gives the reader a accurate depiction from the view of Tom Wolfe and helps clarify the bigger ideas behind the revolution of the hippy generation.

The novel by Tom Wolfe offers a second perspective to the bus ride across America taken by Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, they rode in a day-glow colored bus named Further. I found the book less informative and more a fun read which pulls the reader into a world of thought that is hard to understand and makes you wonder why the book was put in the nonfiction shelf in the bookstore. The novel uses very profound language and descriptions to grab the readers attention, then it gives you the context and storyline. I believe that the book should not be dismissed due to the nature of the story and the drug use, but instead should help the reader further understand the idea of the culture that defined a generation of hippies.

The book starts as a first person narrative and slowly digresses into a blur of words and phrases which almost make no sense, then you realize the author is not in the mindset of a normal human, but has been tainted/enhanced using many drugs that hippies found to break the barriers in the mind that help us survive in the competitive world. These barriers hold back our unbiased thoughts and also serve to create a persona that will survive through the beatings of society.

The novel makes for a interesting narrative that shows a different perception of the world and thought that few can understand or synthesize. The world as we know it appears to be friendly and kind, but on the inside all anyone wants is to be ahead of you. The hippy generation wanted peace and love for the human race, not war and hatred. These ideals are still instilled in the youth, but can be lost as we move towards adulthood and realize the that the real world is as harsh and unforgiving as an Alaskan Thunderstorm. “ The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the essential book… pushing, ballooning heart of the matter… Vibrating dazzle!” (The New York Times) Hell, even the New York Times believe a drug crazed hippy traveling in the the day-glow bus named Further with the Merry Pranksters may have written the best account on the hippies and the ideas that lead to a spark in new thinking a revolution that would inspire musicians, authors, and new philosophies.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kimber
If you want to understand today's drug culture, you must go back to the origins in the Sixties. Wolf's account of this era and its principal characters is a not to be missed read and a valuable reference for that period. In fact, if you want to understand society today, certain lifestyles and the associated values, read this book. From the painted buses to the flower children to Ken Kesey and more, it is all here in extraordinary detail. You won't put it down until you finish, once you start reading, so carve out a few hours one weekend and have food and beverage to hand. Pencil and paper, too, for you will want to get Wolf's other books for his social insights.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andre jimenez
I've savored just about every word this man's ever written. I still vividly recall him at a lecture he gave in Berkley in 1972 standing at the lectern in his white Gatsby suit, starched pink shirt and nattily knotted tie. I can't recall the ostensible topic. He covered so much ground and had such a wealth of ideas and insights that the topic was irrelevent anyway. He's always been our keenest observer of American culture, on subjects ranging from hippies, art snobs, wall street, the space race, to the Southern nouveau-riches.
In terms of unadulterated reading enjoyment, however, this book is still my favorite. He captures the era perfectly. This was the period in the mid-sixties when the hippie philosophy and lifestyle was still genuine, before it had become commercially exploited by the mass media, before Manson and Altamont and the seeds of evil. It was an uncorrupted, pure, joyous movement and moment. Owsley was the bay area chemist who produced hits of Sandoz-quality acid that sent the children out dancing blissfully through the night and into the purple dawn. It truly looked like a brave new world. If you are young and can't undertand why former hippies wax nostalgic about it, it's primarily (at least to me) because that tiny era of innocence can never be recreated. The waters of cynisism have washed away all the bridges to that idyllic past. The era can, however, thanks to Tom Wolfe, be revisited. I urge you to take the tour.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mike hatcher
Tom Wolfe has a very large head, containing (I imagine) a very large brain, and here he puts it to good use, chronicling the Hippie Messiah, Ken Kesey, as he guided the nascent hippie movement from psychedelic inception to co-optation. Wolfe writes in the typical Wolfian way, with plenty of obscure vocabulary, and endless clauses. Kesey is an interesting figure, and the period of time covered by Wolfe is fascinating (albeit started in media res). Particulary interesting is the coolness between Kesey and pointy-heads Timothy Leary and Rammed Ass, upon their intersection at Millbrook. Kesey had something going, something novel and unique. Of course, it was based solely on drugs, and Kesey tried, and failed, to surmount that. The world moved on, and the original spirit of the Pranksters dissipated. But it was a helluva ride while it lasted. Read five pages of the book. If you like it, keep going; if you don't, there's always The Da Vinci Code.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
elle lothlorien
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was definitely an interesting book. I liked how it was all about Ken Kesey because I did not suspect that it would be about him at all prior to reading the book. The book has intrigued me to read more books by Ken Kesey, even though this book was written by Tom Wolfe. I would recommend this book to people who are very open minded and are interested in reading into every single detail that is mentioned in the book. I did get a little bored sometimes with the book, and it was quite slow at some points. If I were to change anything in the story, I would just make it so that more exciting things happen. The whole book is written really well and the story is told well, it just almost seems that the same things are happening over and over. Even so, I think people should read this book just for the enlightenment of the 60's hippie movement. I found Kesey's actions and they way he handled situations interesting. He seemed to always know what was going to happen and how to lead the pranksters. I really enjoyed the pranksters personalities because it seemed they were all unique in their own way. I also found it really interesting that acid inspired them so much. The use of physcadellic drugs really made this story a hundred times more enjoyable. This novel is enjoyable to read as long as you have an open mind. It tells all about the Merry Pranksters and their stories, and really shows how great of a person Ken Kesey truly was.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kerri peters
If you have ever taken a spiritual journey (chemically induced or other), this book will replay the experience verbatim, although the words may look a little different. Before thinking of this as glorifying the 60s LSD culture, realize too that the downside of the 60s counterculture is presented, if not directly, through the consequences of the actors in the drama. The ultimate judgment is left up to the reader. Were Kesey and his Merry Pranksters heroes? Were they merely full of themselves, empowered by LSD? You decide. But man, what a ride! (FYI: This a review posted under my old email address from 1999)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cassandra bergemann
this is the true story of ken keseys merry pranksters, about their fast, wildly driven "can you pass the acid test" having bands such as the grateful dead play at these "tests", which, in that time, was called a happening, a drug induced freak out show with lights, music, dancing, and all the hipsters having a freakout. ken kesey wrote one flew over the cuckoos nest, which was widely accepted by the Indian tribes as a beautiful, non-degrading homage to their beliefs and customs
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
josh fischel
Tom Wolfe does an admirable job of getting close to Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. He follows them through varied adventures and chronicle such activities as the meetings of the Pranksters and Leary's Harvard group. A glimpse of the early Wizards acid test concerts is given also. The Wizards continued on afterwards for years as the Grateful Dead. Encounters with the Hells Angels are visceral and brutal.

This book is one way to get a glimpse of what was going down when people were turning on at the acid tests.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nabila
this book is a biography of ken kesey.in case you havent had a flashback recently,he wrote "one flew over the cuckoos nest".but when he made oodles of money from it,he defied the sell out path the other hippies took and went big time in full hippie fashion.no limos here!he bought a school bus and painted it all hippie like.then he drove around the counyties "staging happenings".these stretched from everything from trying to make a 2 day long movie to running a moving radio station from the bus called "klsd" .his seemingly innocent antics ended up in wild times like 2000 people showing up at his farm after a beatles concert,the hells angels cleaning up in aprons and even crazier stuff.loads more!anyhow,they eventualy start doing "acid tests".youre gonna gave to trust me on this but these tests are really cool.id tell you but its a suprise.id rate this as one of the top ten best books ever.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jill l
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Tom Wolfe's portrayal of Ken Kessey and his odd lot of LSD and psychedelic marketing afficionados is amazing. Traveling cross-country in their day-glow painted bus and throwing experimental light-show concerts throughout the Bay Area, this book not only describes a sub-culture, but a unique era of exploration, experimentation, and adventure in the free-spirited 1960s. Intersecting with this sub-culture are rock legends such as the Grateful Dead, beatnik revolutionary poets such as Ginsburg, and socio-political movements such as Anti-War, hippies based youth centered around Berkeley.

If ever one wants to read a superb chronicle of a social movement from rational, even-kieled journalist reporter, as well as be greatly entertained, then this is the read for you!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeani
A college classmate of mine in the 1960s dropped out in mid-freshman year, married another classmate; they traveled by motorcycle from Vermont to San Francisco and lived in the Haight-Ashbury. After a couple of years, they returned from San Francisco. I was never able to get my feet on the ground in conversation with my ex-classmate -- he was dripping with hippie mystery as if San Francisco existed in a completely different reality. Tom Wolfe's account got my feet on the ground. My friend did NOT want to talk about this book! Thank you, thank you, Tom Wolfe!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amber sullivan
"What a long strange trip its been." This quote from the Grateful Dead's song "Truckin'" is an apt description of this fascinating book about the LSD culture as lived by the Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Reading this book nearly made me experience the mind altering effects of the drug that the riders of that magic bus were so fond of. If you have never experimented with LSD or the other psychedelic drugs this book portrays aan excellent picture of how those drugs alter your perceptions. This review brought to you by radio station KLSD 1000 micrograms in your head
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nima parsi
Tom Wolfe is beautiful. This book is beautiful. Kesey and the Pranksters were beautiful. They let it all go. They almost succeeded, too, but they were defeated by the most powerful enemy of all: time.
Read this to learn about the 60s. Read this to learn about LSD. Read this to learn a powerful system of grassroots psychology. Read this to witness what could be the birth of the world's greatest religion. The Federal robots ate their holy communion before it could spread. And yet it's still spreading. America, eat your heart out from within and be free.
This book is beautiful and it gives me hope. If it weren't for pranksters, the guns and bombs and corporations and drugs and pollution and all the "problems" would just eat us alive. Viva the unkown! Viva the Test! Viva mankind! Viva!
Shop as usual, and avoid panic buying.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tracy hall ingram
A psychedelic adventure into days long passed, the story of Ken Kesey and his merry pranksters is one not to miss. Tom wolfe the master story teller envelops the reader into a story of a revolution, of Acid, individuals and ideas taking place in the magical world of the 60's that we of the younger generation cannot understand. As a member of the younger generation who wasn't around to experience the world as it was then, it gladens me that Mr Wolfe has compiled a description of how others may have seen it when they were there. each character, each location is meticulously set out so the reader can truly understand the world as it twisted and turned around these people, how they didn't change for society, but society changed for them. Thank you Mr. Wolfe i enjoyed it thoroughly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
powen
If you have ever taken a spiritual journey (chemically induced or other), this book will replay the experience verbatim, although the words may look a little different.
Before thinking of this as glorifying the 60s LSD culture, realize too that the downside of the 60s counterculture is presented, if not directly, through the consequences of the actors in the drama. The ultimate judgment is left up to the reader. Were Kesey and his Merry Pranksters heroes? Were they merely full of themselves, empowered by LSD? You decide. But man, what a ride!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
angela rossillo
I bought this book as a 24 year old, curious to learn more about 60's psych-culture. I had high hopes for 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test' because of the title and cover alone, but if the old adage 'never judge a book by its cover' ever held true, it would be with this piece of literature.

Not only is this book a bunch of incoherent rambling, with a bunch of non-necessary people thrown in, the novel is written by a guy who never experienced this culture personally. Regardless of what he says, Wolfe tries uses a plethora of dashes, commas, page-long sentences to convey an image he never lived.

I found myself wanting to torch my Kindle after 50 pages, but somehow managed to finish all 411 pages in about four days. The only positive I found in the book was Clair's account of her first LSD trip, and I will admit the story somewhat picks up towards the last half. However, I will never understand how this piece of 'non-fiction' received the praise that it did.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alan hecht
Boy, where to begin. To start I must say Tom Wolfe is truly a gifted writer, this book works because is was written by a non-judgemental third party, in this case Wolfe, who told you how it was. Wolfe lets you form your own opinion, without his getting in the way, though on most points you would tend to agree with him. This is not just a story of Kesey and the Pranksters, Wolfe gets all of the little nuances,i.e the passages on Hesse, Nietzche etc. could they have fit the bill for a prankster? The book only has one major flaw, but it is not Tom Wolfe's or Ken Kesey's fault. The fault is the book came out in 1968, or it was published in a magazine I dont know I was not alive then, acid experimentation was pretty new and hardly anyone, at least no one in the book, experienced a flashback. So in turn the book seems like an add for acid use, which will turn off so more conservative readers, and it doesnt bring to light some of the possible detremental effects, but its no fault of Wolfe, so read this great piece of literature, not propganda.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
genie
Well I was not of the 60's generation, that was my parents. But after reading this book, I found out a lot more of what the hippies were about and the whole "movement" that they went through in order to turn "beatniks" and "bohos" into the fun loving hippies that Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were. The book entails of the first mission of making the first acid based movie in order to show the people of San Francisco a movie to enjoy to get an LSD experience, even if your not on LSD. Their mission turned into much more than that when they discover that they can change the way people think..."Control". They develop more and more of a following, holding conventions and festivals in order to celebrate the acid tests that they were performing on their followers. Soon they have Hell's Angels by their side, The Grateful Dead to groove to, and the cops to evade and play games with. I have to admit, the book was rather difficult to understand at some parts due to my lack of knowledge of the times and the lack of knowledge of some of the important people of the era who contributed to the hippie movement. Before I read this book, Ken Kesey was just the man who wrote "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest", but after reading the book I saw that he played a much more important role to the 60's and many people who followed his movement.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jason baldwin stephens
The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe was by far the best book that I have ever read. Tom Wolfe amazingly was able to capture a certain essance of the moment. In some cases that may not be so impressive, but have you ever seen the guy? He's a flatout dork... Anyway the book explains so many aspects of the time and the Merry Pranksters; it startled me to see how many things have since penetrated into our very culture--not just counter-culture. There are no words that I can find to explain why this book is so awesome, so just buy it, just read it and let the parallels between your life and the book surprise you. As I read the book so many things kept coming up,(I felt like I was "On the bus") I noticed strangers reading the book and discovered many alusions and found out why I dress the way that I do (I have neon orange tights with a little skirt, boots and a western style shirt on toda.) Reading this book has brought me to a new level, I love Wolfe's languange and the way the he lays it out like it is. Now when I write I write with the slang and the pase that the people I know set so that I can capture a particular sceene as did Wolfe when writing The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
francois
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is the best book I have ever read. . .
This book was poetically written, and although there are a few slow spots, I couldn't put it down. This is definitely a book that everyone should read. It tells the story of the start of the whole Acid Generation and is commonly referred to in society. My history teacher is always using the "on or off the bus" metaphor!
READ THIS BOOK. Even if you don't like it while you're reading it - finish it - you'll appreciate it someday!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
paul moffett
I just read - ingested, more like - The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe's study of the psychedelic era of the 60s. Imagine test pilots from "The Right Stuff" on acid and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. It's e.e. cummings meets Yoko Ono meets William Faulkner meets bathroom wall scribes at a rave with day-glo paint.

An invented sub-culture needs an invented vocabulary. What exactly is "grock"? There is even some kind of invented punctuation mark that looks like a domino tile with a set of sixes. Sometimes the domino is on its side, sometimes standing up. Sometimes the domino is stacked on another domino. The only thing missing is multi-colored text, sound effects and scratch-and-sniff panels.

So, is it worth reading? I'm certainly in no position to tell Tom Wolfe how to write, but I have to admit that I skimmed a lot. There's a reason why rational people avoid drug addicts - they don't make sense. And if your book is mostly recreating the patois of drug-addled Merry Prankskters led by Ken Kesey, well, you get the flavor after a paragraph or two.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
alison spokes
If you're interested in the nonpolitical side of the '60s counterculture, this is a great insider's account. Wolfe's warped, exuberant sense of style does a masterful job of recreating the wild, iconclastic feel of the time. Reading this book really gives you a feel of what it must have been like to live with Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. After a while, you feel like one of them, totally swept up by the heady mix of intellectualism, creativity, rebellion, and drugs. While this insider's view is the book's best attribute, it also hurts it. Wolfe's report of the times is half way between imitation beat literature and journalism. While he succeeds on the first front, his account is too biased to possibly be considered journalism. He ignores what could reasonably be seen as Kesey's dark side (introducing teenage runaways to powerful drugs and then initiating relationships with them). I found myself reading Helter Skelter (about the Charles Manson case) immediately after The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test in order to get both sides of the 60's communal living coin. Also, Wolfe knows his social history pretty well, but he should leave the music history to somebody else. He essentially calls The Beatles a rip off of The Grateful Dead, which is just laughable. Yes, the Beatles appropriated elements of psychedelia on their later albums, but they still sounded nothing like the Grateful Dead. Also, calling The Beatles' late 60's albums "acid rock" is simply wrong. "Rubber Soul" was above all else a folk-rock album and "Sgt. Peppers" and "Magic Mystery Tour" were psychedelic pop, and had little to do with the heavier, druggier sounds of acid rock. Wolfe also repeatedly overstates the importance of The Grateful Dead. Because of their association with Kesey, Wolfe claims that they single handedly pioneered psychedelic rock. Obviously, the writer has never heard of a little band from Texas known as The Thirteenth Floor Elevators....
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ayman lotfy
Tom Wolfe is not a hippie. Through this book, however, he succesfully showed us what an ideal hippie life would be like, and the expierences hippies encounter. Be it a Day-Glo paint-splashed forest or an LSD addict who eventually leaves The Bus (the mode of transportation Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters use which contains a water cooler laced with LSD), or a visit from the Hell's Angels, this book is intense and interesting. Do not start it on a busy day, you'll lose track of time while reading this masterpiece.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rubiy
After two attempts, 4 months, and lots of time forgotten by my bedside, I have finally been able to complete Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests." This book is by no means an easy read and only after the first 250 pages was I able to get into the flow of the book. Wolfe has a notable talent for adapting his literary voice to match the subject of his work. Unfortunately in this case, the subject matter was a group of acid heads, which doesn't leave a very clear voice behind. The non-fiction novel was written in a non-stop stream of conscious writing style. Focus changes in a matter of words and paragraphs last for pages. Again, this was NOT an easy read. Going along with Wolfe's New Journalism, the piece was littered with noises and:::::::: interesting forms of punctuation.

New journalism always brings a more entertaining light to subject matter, and Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were funny enough to begin with. While the comedy comes blink-and-you'll-miss-it, the jokes are hearty. A fan of reading about the drug culture, this was definitely an interesting book for me to read. Once a reader can get past the dense language and difficult structure, and merry read is ahead.

This book comes as a great follow up to anyone reading Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest," but if a reader was looking for an interesting read on the culture of the times, I'd recommend him or her to pick up some Hunter S. Thompson first. The subject matter remains the same while the writing has much more to be enjoyed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
fabiela
The drug-taking (psychedelic) hippies of the sixties, West Coast branch, are featured in this book. In particular, Ken Kesey and his people, who Wolfe is clearly taken with, perhaps too much so, since his approach is that of a journalist, and I sense he lost his head a bit here. But for the most part he does do a good job of laying out what happened and when, reporting as the outsider he generally is: which has the advantage of making Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test a "book of record," and the disadvantage, to my taste, of staying on the surface of things. I Think, Therefore Who Am I?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jerry carter
Tom Wolfe takes us through part of the acid-movement of the 60's with Ken Kesey (author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") and company as they embark on their journey across America to popularize acid. Wolfe writes in a way that sort of makes you feel that you are on acid too. His writing style in this book is very unique and he has an incredible way of describing things which is one thing I really enjoyed. Now I can finally understand what many of those baby-boomers went through!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
andy volk
I feel sorry for the people who have not read this choppy yet wonderfully written account of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. My dad went to Berkeley during the sixties and he reccomended this book to me. I obviously appreciate the story and writing on another level than my dad because our lives are quite different. It was the perfect book for me to read this summer because I also read Stranger in a Strange Land AND One Flew Over... They both tie into this eye-opening, brain Mal-Functioning masterpiece. It reminded me of Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction (...also a 4 star piece of writing...). However, it frustrated me. I want to live like that so much; it is so appealing. I want to be a boho. A beatnik. But that era has passed. Maybe I will start my own "group". Want to join??? Kidding. Puts a different spin on drugs(el...es...dee,etc.) and why people use them. The popularity of this book is due to both Kesey (his life) and Wolfe (his writing).
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
gigg
This should be read along with Hunter Thompson's 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'. Many colorful characters are found in this book. Often I've been curious about what made the 60's "the 60's" and this book shines a light on a the roots of the American psychedelic movement. In terms of American literature, this book picks up where Kerouac's On The Road left off (Neal Cassady's in this one too).
I've always been lukewarm to Tom Wolfe's writing style. Too often, the story suffers from unwanted intercessions of the writer. Having an author literally shout to his own characters "Run, you fool!" and "What do we learn from this?" is really an unwise writing trick. Very distracting and pointless, really.
At its best, this book manages to capture a time period - peripherals and all. At its worst, it's dull and skim-worthy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lauren picho
This novel is a devilishly clever read that PUTS YOU as close to the real-life situations it depicts as humanly possible. Maybe Tom Wolfe isn't human...and maybe he just fried right along with Kesey & Co. At any rate, this book is an amazing accomplishment, whether or not you've ever experimented with drugs (namely LSD). As an aspiring filmmaker, I honestly would love to direct an in-your-face cinematic version of this epic vision of the 60s.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ann russell ainsworth
I really didn't like the book, and had the hardest time to finish it because of my personal phobias of so many things the Merry Pranksters did.(gas station bathrooms, for example) Nevertheless, I think it is only fair to acknowledge the importance of this book as an important documentary of the modern American history that has had a huge influence in our culture, and Tom Wolfe who is definitely a valuable journalist who can document brilliantly and with such ease.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
laurent chevalier
My first review; reader beware, it'll suck.
This book, however, does not suck. Tom Wolfe's writing has always unnerved me, while also stimulating/invigorating many of my seldom-used brain pathways. Electric Kool-aid Acid Test is written in Wolfe's usual manic lots-of-words-but-every-word-means-something-explosive style...he explores drug trips better than anyone I've ever read before, his descriptions are packed with ever-expansive meaning and valuable details, etc. I picked up this book to learn a bit more about Ken Kesey, and ended up learning a lot more about a lot of other things.
The mid-sixties seem like very extraordinary times to young people today, in part due to chronicles like this one. There are certainly people in this book that are larger-than-life, and were trying to make life larger.
This is a book about pushing the boundaries, about mapping terra incognita, about vast underground movements that are still shaking the foundations...it's a trip, and ultimately, it's a reminder that even the most well-outfitted expeditions must end at some point, and the adventurers will grow older and must return to their nests.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brandon jones
Trying to sum up The Electric Kool-Acid Test. By Tom Wolfe, in one word is impossible. So I won't try. This enticing piece of literary journalism dives into the counter-cultural upheavals that were the 60's. It follows Ken Kesey and his merry band of pranksters as they travel across the United States, and parts of Mexico, spreading self-awareness, as well as a good deal of hallucinogenic drugs. Their efforts were aimed to shake the roots of conformist, consumerist society to its core and understand the purpose of human existence along the way. In effect "transcending the bull****", that is a stereotypical existence. They were a group devoted to the "here and now" and. Along the path they meet with the likes of Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, Thomas Leary, and the police. This book details their journey, it drags you through the ocean of this decade and pulls you out, wet, but better informed about what lies at the bottom of the sea.
Some contend that this is a muddled account of the era, one with too many characters and not enough plot, that the details are superfluous and that in the end it fails to convey the true spirit of the times. Sadly, they are wrong.
This diary of history is outstanding not only in literary technique, but also because it recognizes an elemental theme of American culture; change. It is "our strange and haunting paradox in America- that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement", as stated by Tom Wolfe. The Acid Test records these movements and sets them in stone for future generations to look back upon, and expand upon. His insight into sociological trends is wisdom for generations to come. It parallels the counter-cultural movements of the 60's: the Psychedelic movement, the Free love movement, the summer of love, the rebellion of youth against authority and conformity, the beat generation. Here is an essential key to understanding not only the past, but modern American culture as it exists today. The growing sense of independence and uniqueness is still felt by today's generations. Freedom of expression is still a controversial issue. Finding something more in existence and "transcending the bull****" is what so many still strive for today.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe is an essential read simply due to its interesting nature, but also because it shows the basis of American culture as well as its future, change.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
maricela ramirez
Very interesting account of the birth of the Hippie Movement in America (if not the world). When Wolfe's words are flowing it's awesome. But his jumbling up of styles, though intended to reflect what he was experiencing, more often than not, is boring and a bit pretentious. Specifically, when he attempts Kerouacian spontaneous prose, it largely comes off, for me anyways, as gimmicky. I wish he would have stuck to a straight ahead style...I think the craziness and uniqueness of what he was witnessing would have still come through. Overall, though, worth the time spent reading it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kimmie white
Dealing with a subject many leave out when disccusing the counter-cultute of the 60's, Electric Kool Aid Acid Test is one of these best books I ever read. I first read it in high school after my father recomended it to me. It inspired me to learn more about Kesey and the Pranksters (I eventually meet them) and to read such other books as On The Road and One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest. I a very important part of my life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
meagan bolles
This book probably gives the most detailed and essential guide to the sixties. Being a teenager now, i have no idea what the time period was like, but after reading Tom Wolfes book, i have a pretty good idea.
The book delves into the heart of 60's America, giving (in as much detail as possible i think) a wierd and wonderful account of people, pranks and LSD. The book is written in a style i have never come across before, Wolfe using very inventive terms. The style itself is used mainly to re-create the feel of the time period, getting the feel of being 'On The Bus', and providing fantastic results.
Kesey and the Merry Pranksters aren't given bias either. They aren't praised or put down and that gives the book an extra strength. Wolfe using a 3rd person account, simply tells a story (and what a story).
Some parts of the book are somewhat longwinded, but on a whole its a masterpiece, quite simply a classic. Its certainly different, sometimes providing a somewhat LSD account of things, but wasn't that the sixties in a nut-shell? Probably. This is what Tom Wolfe set out to create, and how well he manages it.
Reading it now you'll think, "Wouldn't it be great to experiance the sixties for myself. Being on the bus, grooving with Kesey and the Pranksters, playing the cops and robbers game..." and then you realise you only went and got born in the 80's!
Still, opening the book again will transport there in the comfort of your own home. 'ELECTRIC' and 'KOOL', a must-read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kamakhya
Necessary reading to understand the United States of the 1960's, and especially its' counterculture. Wolfe approaches from the view of the neutral journalist, giving the book that much more authenticity.
Presented here is the Haight Ashbury of San Francisco; Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters; The Warlocks(later the GD); Timothy Leary and the League for Spiritual Discovery; Neal Cassady; Jack Kerouac; Allen Ginsberg; Hunter S. Thompson; etc....
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
drew darby
This has to be the worst book I've read all the way threw, without stopping because it was so bad. The author, editor, and publisher all had to be actually on acid to release this book. It is utter nonsense. Don't waste your money or time on this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bj rn hallberg nielsen
For those of us fortunate enough to not be a young adult during the sixties - this book takes you safely through the madness of the time. It is extremely well written, and at points you feel as if you're in the middle of some drug-crazed party with the Merry Pranksters and the Dead.
Truly an insight into the period and the consequences of the reckless abandon that we are still paying for today!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
christine chi
Few people will question the abilities of Tom Wolfe to capture a time, a people, or a culture. This book is one of the reasons. Growing up in the Sixties, I saw most of the people Wolfe writes about in this book, reviled by the media and the public. And until I read this book, most of my perceptions of the Merry Pranksters was similar to that of the mainstream press.

However, reading this book helped me to form my own ideas about the people who were really the bridge between the Beat generation and the Hippie generation. Both groups espoused many of the same ideas about American culture and America's sociological bent towards blindly following capitalist ideals.

Both groups ultimately failed to make any real change.

But thanks to Tom Wolfe, for a very brief moment like the Czech spring of '68, America saw a different 'perception' of how a society could operate.

Bob Wayne, author

Troutman Penthouse 1975
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
snickerswithnoknickers
The 60's experience mirrored in words. Sometimes we forget our roots and it is good to remind ourselves to keep a good questioning attitude. Try this book and the following:

On the Road

The Dharma Bums

Sometimes a Great Notion

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The Third Eye (T. Lobson Rampa, I think)

and listen to American Beauty Rose! ;.)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mada radulescu balan
Wow. I really did not realize the social, economical, and cultural importance of the drug acid. Tom Wolfe brilliantly explains how the once legal drug influenced a whole generation of "merry pranksters," expanding their minds and consciousness. "Electric Kool-Aid" describes the travels of the Merry Pranksters (a group of "hippies" on a pilgrimage from Cali to New York) and the colorful characters that join them. From the Hell's Angels to Ginsberg, Wolfe informs the reader of various "acid tests" and how the life of Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady influenced this genre of living. Even the Grateful Dead are included (prior to reading this book, I did not realize that the drug acid also produced the genre of music titled "acid rock").
I would reccommend this book to anyone seeking the thrill of an acid trip without the acid. Wolfe's formal writing aspects deliever a message that perhaps, yes, the 60s was indeed a horror show, mirroring such events as Vietnam and lousy political leaders such as Nixon. Despite all of the chaos, a group of intelligent and charasmatic patrons decided to expand their horizons and indeed imerse themselves in the "Electric Kool Aid Test."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mike daronco
I found myself knowing exactly what the pranksters were going through, having myself just come out of the long, seemingly endless tunnel of drug abuse, with a specialization in acid. Anyone who ever felt alone in the world of acid freaks has got to read this. Beyond that, it is all counter-cultures Bible of Honesty to what it all come downs to... you're either on the bus or off it!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
juliemy
Ten a.m. tomorrow we will be having a parade to celebrate just how great this joyfully experimental book is. The parade will start at Coronado mall, traipse down Louisianna Blvd, batons a-twirling, clowns a-prancing, and Majorette Lindy Lee highstepping fancy in her new suede boots and her tiny white parade skirt.

Hooray!

The parade will also feature jugglers--on fire!--lions--on fire!--and free candy for the kids.

Hooray!

The parade will take a momentary hiatus at La Amistad Park at the corner of Tramway and Central, for cotton candy and funnell cake. There the mayor will address the city on Tom Wolfe's genius (and true!) imagery.... To celebrate redwood forests wired with microphones and loudspeakers, haunted by hippies, and painted in blazing Day-glo colors.... To celebrate this terrific portrait of Neal Cassady post-"On the Road," to celebrate a writer/reporter unafraid to get his hands dirty and his mind befogged, to celebrate a book about the drug culture that simaltaneously simulates how it feels to be on drugs and permanently alters every reader's way of viewing words and how they fit together.

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Read this book, whoever you are--and join us tomorrow for the big march.

Bring your tuba.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kirsten kotsopoulos
I liked the first half, which focussed on Ken Kesey's history and the scene in Palo Alto and La Honda; also delved into the movitation of Kesey from a psycho-social angle. But once Kesey took off for Mexico the book becomes like an action comedy, following his flight almost exclusively.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ty bufkin
I do not lie; this book literally changed my life. It introduced me to the concept of serendipity and how there really are no such things as coincidences. Every time I read the book, events magically happen which only further reinforce my belief. Traveling intrepidly. On the bus. Going Furthur. It's all there--just pick up the book and read it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
barri bryan
Tom Wolfe is one of the most engaging and genuinely original storytellers I've ever read. The story is a hoot but they way he tells it... is breathtaking.

Tom Wolfe is the real deal - he was there. I know, because I was there. I experienced that drugged soaked summer of '67 and no one captures it better than Wolfe.

Although some consider Wolfe a "journalist" he actually writes like a storyteller - a superb storyteller.

Richard A McCullough
[...]
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lori beth
This book is definitely a must read in the canon of American literature. Wolfe, as always, does an excellent job in his journalistic role, placing himself with Mailer and Capote in this area. However, the one unfortunate part of this book is that if you ARE reading it then you ARE NOT currently engaged in reading one of Kesey's own books, which is a shame. If you haven't read Kesey, you must. If you've read CUCKOOS NEST, you have to read SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION. If you haven't read SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION, you have my condolences.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
felice picano
Very interesting book. I had heard the stories before, now I finally can read about them. I am not a big fan of the sixties, but I think I have a better sense of what some if it was about after reading this book. It traces some of the events in Ken Kesey's and his follower's lives in the sixties. That was a weird and wild bunch, wish I could have been there to see them in person.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nathan alderman
A tom Wolfe sits/ /Among Kesey;s sheeps The prankster's pack interrogated;;;;;;anit- Black shiney FbI shoes-ish/
A Wolfe that can dig the experience without bein' part of it/
Wolfe watches/
Politely passing on Acid K-Aid;;;;takes notes/ With Pens srible-ible-ible-ing/ Watching pl-acid- Prankster's scene / Animated?Kesey/
Explains far out experiences ,. Others blinded/
Kesey tripped up messiah of sixties anit-pop culture;;/ ;;Haight Ashbury Christ&Budda&Muhammed charismatic acid head/ He who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a/ Great Notion/ Going where no nosey reporters dare go/ Amid drugs and Hell's Angels and Dylan and johnGeorgeringo and thatotherguy/
Now tom Wolfe's Merry Prankster epic begins amid the Day-Glow faceplate of sixties rebel America/
Tom Wolfe uses language not grounded on moldy English textbooks, but on people's perceptions and unconscious;;Whole-istic;;views. In fact unless you scrutinize very carefully, you won't even notice the effects that Wolfe's writing style has on your mind. Here's an example for the unread. "Babb's, saying, `Yes, it's all so very obvious.' It's all so very obvious..." and it is. This excerpt was the part that really broke through to me. Actually IT wasn't obvious, IT was why the Vietnam war started. Everyone talking about IT was zonked out of their gourds and Ginsberg, acid head and sometimes eastern mystik had decided that all wars are started by misunderstandings which the stereo stypical burned out Vietnam vet, Babbs, answqrs with a: But of course! Yet this statement can be not true, yet Wolfe lets the part hang, like he's saying: it's obvious to them, it would be to you if you're acid-fried-jet-lagged. Wolfe's writing does something that most fiction writter's have been trained and culled and trained again not to do. Give away your personality through you're writing. Not only does he pull it off in a slick hipstercat sort of way, but manages to keep the unspoken rule among Literary non-fiction writters: "Never talk about yourself. Why your doing this story:fine:How are you doing this story:fine: but not who is doing this story :::definately not:::. Wolfe's Creativeenglish is at it's best in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. A story of the once acclaimed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest author Ken Kesey and his band of movie-filming-variable lag-acid hippies the Merry Pranksters, their history;their theory; and their Intrepid Trip through America's ShineyBlackShoe and WhiteCollar world. Much like the acid detailed in the story, this book is an experience. It would be impossible to explain the book in any terms that wouldn't be unwieldy psychological jargon. Wolfe's depth of character understanding shines the most through all of the story. He has synched his mind into the Prankster's psychedelic/low rent/communal living induced group mind without the need of the experience as Kesey calls the hallucinogenic state of being. The prankster's have no need for words. They know what they are talking about and can explain it to other pranksters with looks and gestures but never words. As Wolfe explains: "... that huge afternoon sun like a huge thousand-eyed thing pulsing explosions of sunlight in exact time to the weird Arab music -and in that moment Kesey, Mountain Girl, Sandy, Zonker, all of them-No one even had to look at another because they not only know that everyone else is seeing it at once, they feel, they feel it flowing through one brain, " Wolfe puts it in terms laymen can understand. He quantifies the experience for those who need quantification to understand. He puts words to Kesey's mind.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shoma
i must say that after reading this book it has left me searching for a new high. High meaning in a book sence. i find it extremely fasinating that back in the day they were so creative in there trippy ways. i found wanting to read more and more, more than once i felt like i was on the bus with the merry pranksters. this book is defenatly at the tip top of my all time favorite books of all times. This book gives a whole new meaning to CONTACT HIGH! 1
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hrvoje
There are storybooks, there are psychedelic books, and then there is The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe. It is the true story of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and their physical voyage across the United States, as well as their symbolic voyage through the universe. As much as this can be considered a book about drugs and hippies, it can more accurately be viewed as a spiritual journey that not only exemplifies a culture and a time period, but also an idyllic way of life. Read it. And read it again while taking notes. Then live it.

[..]
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alefiya
I have read the story of The merry Pranksters and they are now a part of my life. When ever I feel that I need a little excitement I pick up my very used copy and get lost in the same story and life I have known before. I wish to obtain The Movie and see for myself the wonderful pictures Tom Wolfe helped create in my mind.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sheri wallace
.
Extinction - lost time: This may be a good thing.
Ken Kesey's recent death marked a time passage. As an appreciation, I picked-up "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test".
Tom Wolfe wrote for the here and now of that was then.
Let me expand: You will really enjoy this book if you were post-beat aware.
In 2002, it is historical.
In 2002, it is difficult reading.
It may trigger déjà-vu flashbacks --may they be soft.
I enjoyed Prankster revelations still apropos in 2002.
You may not make it past the first thirty pages. But that's ok; it might not be in your movie.
"When you've got something like we've got, you can't just sit on it...you've got to move off of it and give it to other people. It only works if you bring other people into it"....Kesey
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emilynance
I first read this book 20 years ago. Last month a got a new copy and read it again. I realized that this book has been speaking to me, inspiring me all those years. It's still so fresh and challenging. It still fills me with energy and good humor. What's the saying - 'Read it again for the first time.' I recommend it all over again. PS: I recently read a new book called "The Leap", by Tom Ashbrook, which reminded me of Tom Wolfe's masterpiece - but in a completely updated setting. The arena always changes, but that life of discovery goes on. Anyway, thank you, Tom Wolfe! You've been a lifelong inspiration.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
manu
Wow, the times they have already changed. It blows my mind that anyone would publish such incredibly lousy writing. I guess "back then" it was really hot topical stuff. Being from "back then" myself, it all seems quite familiar, and it is very interesting. But gee whiz, Tom, I have to say your writing has not stood the test of time. Meh.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
terri fl
This book is about the American born, hippie movement. The journalist Tom Wolfe infiltrates the Merry Prankster's before their Acid Graduation and tells the whole story. I liked this book because of the wild details of the tripped out life of acid heads. Wolfe takes us for a ride with the Pranksters, through their beginnings as intellectuals in Stanford, to the low days of living as outlaws in Mexico. In the end Ken Kesey, the leader of the Merry Pranksters, talks about another way other than LSD, DMT, Peptide, and Marijuana making the reader feel reassured. This is a great read and historical reference, so if you're looking for some info on the 60's or just need a laugh I would recommend, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
betty townley
If you like Tom Wolfe, be sure and read be sure to read Tim Dorsey's collection, Hunter Thompson and be prepared to laugh until you cry reading Dorsey. I definitely want to re-read Tom Wolfe, and I highly recommend the movie or book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Have fun laughing and it's best shared reading (Dorsey).The back cover is enough to crack you up and characters are hilarious. the movie Get him to the Greek is fall down funny, Russell Brand is a crack up.(movie) I love to laugh and I was born in the late 50's, so I was too young to live hippy days though I feel like I did. I've always been a prolific reader and worked at a local bookstore and Walden Books, and made good use of it all, even Carlos Castenada.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kimberly greenwald
Tom Wolfe's version of how Ken and the other Merry Pranksters pulled off the Acid revolution is phenominal. Before the book was over I not only wanted to try Acid for myself but was pissed off because I wasn't even alive to experience the acid tests. The Grateful Dead is my favorite band, and knowing that they participated in, and helped progress, the Pranksters' movement just strengthened my respect for ALL of the bandmates. This movie is a great look at what really happened in the 60s and what all of the people my age missed out on!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
siobhan o dwyer
I was not alive in the 60's but reading this book gave me a good idea what it was like. For anyone that is even remotely curious as to what that decade is about, this is the book to read. Wolfe may not have been taking LSD, but his job was no less "trippy." As I was reading, I couldn't help wishing that I could have been there, freaked myself out and gone wild in the country. There is A LOT going on in this book, which might discourage some people. But expanding your mind can be a confusing thing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jacquilyn
I loved this one.

I normally write long and detailed reviews (see my listmania lists) but, suffice it to say that almost anyone would much enjoy reading this well-organized and closely-documented lunacy.

My highest recommendation! *.*
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kartini
Don't listen to that guy from New York who said that Wolfe uses "disgusting writing tricks." He reads the book but he doesn't feel it. Tom Wolfe's book is about LSD. His book is LSD. He describes LSD experiences greatly. This book made me feel like I was tripping.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
catina
not be conform, trouble minds is the best way to live is own life. i,m 20, i'm french, that' s to say that i come from a very traditional country, and i decided to go accross the world to do a break from a formal life. like the merries i want my life unique!!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
marie france beaudet
Wolfe, in his author note, states that he attempted to "re-create the mental atmosphere or subjective reality [of the Pranksters]." While I laud his attempt to let us know what hanging with the Merry Pranksters was really like, I really just didn't get it. There is some fine journalistic writing in the book, but it is buried under all the "mental atmosphere" writing, which probably only makes sense to those people who have taken acid (which does not include this reviewer) or who were part of the late-1960s counterculture in San Francisco (which again does not include this reviewer, who was born in the late 1960s).
Anyone who is expecting a "straight" account of the Pranksters are advised to steer clear, but those with a taste for the surreal will probably find this book quite enjoyable.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lorraine reynolds
If you weren't part of the Acid Generation, this book can take you into the psychedelic past- Tom Wolfe brillantly tells the story of the merry pranksters led by the madly chrismatic Ken Kesey- Pot, DDT, LSD, Speed, among other drugs are all part of the insanely energetic life of the Pranksters- However, Wolfe doesn't just tell, he reaches out grabs you and pulls you into the experience- You become "on the bus" and you feel the frightening realities of the surreal trip which is LSD and the way of life surrounding it- This book will open new realms of your mentality- I have yet to read more of Wolfe's pieces, but i can tell you this book is fantastic- My words of advice are READ IT!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rines
This book is one of the coolest, weirdest, and hardest to understand book I have ever read. The topics it talks about are amazing in their awkward happenings. Wolfe talks about the Acid Reunion in great detail. The things Kesey went through in his early life such as writing books while druged up on acid is amazing. The titles of the chapters are a riot as well. Some titles are:The bladder totem, What do you think of my Buddha? and many others. I believe this book is great to read and every teenager should read this book for laughs and for the experience of what is was like to live like Ken Kesey did.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kesha
Wow. What a book! This book took me back to my teenaged years.

A lot of history about LSD, it's origins, it's production, and the intellectuals who believed it was "the" drug..a drug that all should experience to have mind-altering and mind-expanding experiences. Quite a book! I would recommend it. Wolfe is a genius documenting the events of the time. A lot of history and background on Ken Kesey (One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest), Timothy Leary, and other involved in the "new" drug, LSD.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrea6448
The best book I've ever read about the 60s and the psycheedelic movement. As with all Wolfe nonfiction, this is true new journalism written with all the tools and powers of fiction. Incredible, insightful, funny and entertaining book about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shelly sexton
I found the book exciting and eye-opening. I lived through these times, but felt Wolfe was explaining my own generation to me so I saw it in a new way. This book was recommended to me by a 17-year-old high school student who also enjoyed it, so the appeal of the book crosses all age groups.Wolfe really captured all the sights, sounds, colors, and feelings of the 60s.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rahul basra
If the psychedelic movement has a canon, this book is its bible.
I have a special love for this book: It influenced my life more than any other piece of literature. I read it during my senior year in high school, as I prepared to apply to colleges. Tom Wolfe introduced me to people who had asked big questions about life, arrived at no real answers, and survived anyway.
When my parents and school counselors applauded my decision to go to Stanford, they had no idea what my motivations were!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
heather smid
Wolfe reports on Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters during the late 1960s. Simply following the crazy antics of these drug-inspired hippies isn't enough for Wolfe. His writing style mimics the Pranksters manic frolicking.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jason brehm
If you are interested in the 60s culture on the extreme end, read this ook. It is a well written book about Kesey and his bunch of crazy hippies tripping there way through society.
After reading this read 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest'
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nora jay
I can't even begin to articulate the brilliance of Tom Wolfe's novel. UNBELIEVABLE!!!! Each and every passage just blew me away. His imagry, his tone, his message, it's one hell of a ride! I couldn't ask for a better time. Speaking from the vantage point of a 16 year old girl born 20 years after the facts of this book, I found myself glued to each page, reading every word, every phrase more than once so as not to miss a single double meaning, a single image. Tom Wolfe is my Shakespeare
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ahmad hathout
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was definitley an interesting book. I liked how it was all about Ken Kesey because I did not suspect that it would be about him at all prior to reading the book. The book has intrigued me to read more books by Ken Kesey, even though this book was written by Tom Wolfe. I would recommend this book to people who are very open minded and are interested in reading into every single detail that is mentioned in the book. I did get a little bored sometimes with the book, and it was quite slow at some points. If I were to change anything in the story, I would just make it so that more exciting things happen. The whole book is written really well and the story is told well, it just almost seems that the same things are happening over and over. Even so, I think people should read this book just for the enlightenment of the 60's hippie movement. It tells all about the Merry Pranksters and their stories, and really shows how great of a person Ken Kesey truly was.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelly chaplin
I just finished this book and all I can say is it blew me away. Its made mewant to drive to find Ken Kesey and follow him around. I just might do it. I feel I as I was "on the Bus" with the Merry Pranksters. I have never taken acid but after reading this I feel I have. I will now devour every reading on Kesey, Cassady, and the others.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alex angelico
Wolfe's book gives you a taste of the whole sort of attitude of the trippy rebels of the 60's. You are truly immersed in the experience of what psychedelia and being "trippy" was all about. Not just the drugs and the political angst, but the whole playful, colorful, hopeful/idealistic journey. It IS about taking acid, and like they say - it's not an experience you know by hearing or reading about it, but this is as close as it gets...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
baby ladykira
“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”, by Tom Wolfe is a fun ride for the reader and an interesting look into the counterculture of the mid-sixties. The book does have a slow start and drops off at points but is honestly worth reading through it as most chapters are exciting, random, odd, unusual and unconventional, . I would say this book was perfect for myself, a young adult whose curiosities do occasionally indulge in the drug world and American history. This book is exactly what they did not teach you in school, it is not only about the “hippies” true goals and reasons behind what they did, but also their life stories and home lives. This book also contains a good portion of humor as the main group of characters refers to themselves as “The marry pranksters”.

Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest”, is a man who recently was let out of prison and now is on an quest to New York to film a movie based off LSD, Marijuana, and Speed. Don’t worry, the story goes deeper than that often dipping occasionally into each characters past life. The Acid-trips and pranks they pull are also really enjoyable to read. Such depth goes into writing about each “trip” that its feels as though your seeing through the characters eyes and feeling what he feels over the amount of time in which he feels it. However, the story isn’t just about the pranksters voyage across the United States...

This book is over all made for fun and just looking at the past from a different angle, there is no history lesson to be learned, its just a fun story with history sprinkled in. This book is not for the reader looking for something to learn, although i do suggest it to that person as a nice change of pace. This book is for the reader looking for fun in reading and some good laughs (occasional memory use of U.S. History may be required), or may just was to learn a bit more about counter culture. Regardless this book is interesting and humorous and should be read if you are interested or have the chance.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jerusha
The best book I ever read! Wolfe's style is Unmatchable.
Not only is it a great piece of history, inviting you to witness the birth of the hippy scene,
But, it reads like a great psychedelic trip!
You come on fast, peak for what seems like forever, and come down with a crash!
I never had that much fun reading words on paper!
I would also recommend "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
vlm 1124
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is one of the best books I have ever read! It has totally changed my life. It brought me to a greater understanding of what went on in the 1960's, and has totally turned me on to the time period! I reccomend that everyone read this book, wheather you are into the Hippie scene or not. This is a great book for everyone, those who were kids in the '60's and those who wish they were. I just wish that I was born to see all this! Read the book! Peace:) Alexis
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
erin robbins
An excellent book. The book has the ability to make a long plane trip a lot less plain and much more trip. Essentially a peek into the realm of Ken Kesey during the 60's but his experiences....you wouldn't believe. Crashing a Unitarian Church conference, staging Kesey's death, partying with the Hell's Angels. It doesn't get much better than this. Especially relevant if you live in the bay-area the picture crystallizes with familiar references. Two tie-dyed thumbs up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
landon
A classic bit of American history and a fun story. Anyone who has ties to psychedelia or enjoys learning about some of the events that made the 60s the unique decade that it was should read this book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
treena
I have really enjoyed many of Jack Kerouac's novels and was looking to explore something along those lines. This all takes place post Kerouac prior to the 'Woodstock' movement in the San Francisco Bay Area/ California. It can be a little difficult at times to read due to the lack of punctuation, but if you read it in a fashion to a person with A.D.D. or on a acid binge (like they were) it makes more sense. A little rambling, but so much fun!!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
angela bui
What can be told about Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test? It's a reporting of the Merry Pranksters and their whacked-out, drug addled misadventures across the country with Ken Kesey as their assumed and humble leader. While overall, I was not a big fan of this book, I should not continue without saying that there are some truly entertaining stories to be told here (Kesey's first experience with acid and the "buddha", Kesey meeting Owsley, experiences with the Dead, etc.). In fact, I wouldn't even necessarily not recommend it. I say this because I don't think the problems that I have with this book would bother the average reader.

Having said this, I think that I just see this book as being moot. It's a story told about acidheads, from a person who never actually tried any acid. Anyone who has tried this psychedelic drug will try to explain it's significance to you, but will ultimately admit that it transcends words and it must simply be experienced (unintentional nod to Hendrix). Now, this could potentially not matter (and who would want to read the ramblings of a tripper anyhow?), but a sort of US V THEM scenario is created as a result. The "us" being Wolfe and the reader, and the "them" being the subjects of the book. The author, therefore the reader, seemingly stick out like a sore thumb in a style of book in which the reader is supposed to feel immersed in the time and place. If you want to hear an account of a Phish concert, do you want to hear it from the parents who have brought their 16 year old son to his first concert whilst sitting in the back row covering their mouths with handkerchiefs as to avoid inhaling any marijuana smoke, or do you want to hear from the guy near the front who has created an open space for himself from the reeling of fellow concert goers as to avoid the flailing limbs of his frantic dance? I know my answer.

However, the fatal flaw for me, which may not bother anyone else is that the appeal of the subject matter seemed to diminish as time went on. The book maintained a level of interest in me that was equal the number of pages I held in my right hand. I went from the wide-eyed curiosity of the examination of a group of people determined to change the world, to being bored and kind of angry that a group of drug-addled hedonists had garnered so much attention. They contributed nothing to society, other than proving that simply TALKING ABOUT changing the world won't amount to anything if you simply lie around and trip out and screw each other all day. My interest in this book was a perfect metaphor for the significance of the hippie revolution. In the end, it all went up in a puff of smoke. The admiration of hedonism in our culture hasn't died, but it has taken upon a different form. Thankfully at least taking baths has come back in a big way. If I need a lift in knowing that there are people out there trying to change the world I'll look to the Nelson Mandelas and the Gandhis of the world. And this book will remain as forgotten as a memory of Woodstock.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marlene kluss
This book is about how LSD can essentially take a person into the beyond and how Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters did just that. Excellently written to reflect how the mood of the moment was. A must read for anyone wishing to expand their view of society or maybe see it from a different view.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nina razi
I'm young. i was not alive in the 60's or the 70's. im seventeen. I read this book a year ago for the first time. This book is brilliance, a true classic, on of the great works of nonfiction. Its a window into a time period and culture that everyone knows superficial about but the deepness and complexity is not as known. you really get a feel for the people in the story, ken kesey i knew about, having read his books, and Neal Cassidy from Kerouac's On The Road,(another of my favorites). I felt at times i was on the bud Furthur roaring acrosse america.

This book hightened my already intense fascination in the 50's 60's 7o's in america.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
daniel a
Wolfe masterfully examines the life and times of Kesey's "merry pranksters" by offering first hand experience in detail that I haven't read before. The scenes are vivid and made me really better understand this segment of a generation that I haven't been exposed to.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
malaina
The Electric Kool-Aid acid test is one of the most humorous, mind appealing things i have ever read. It lets you peak inside times you only wished you had been around for. Being too late to have experianced the '60's myself, Wolfe brings about a great sense of the entire Era, from its ruthless beginings on up. Lovely! Simply Lovely.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jp hogan
I got this book at a garage sale and I was really looking forward to reading it. I heard so much about it and was surprised when I also found it in the library, multiple copies, under classics.

I really like historical counts of the sixties counter culture but this never kept my interest to keep picking it up again. If you finally got interested in something, to follow along like a story or a sensible account, it just dropped it. I never found myself really caring about the people involved. Everything was just there, but the people were acting like everything they did had some great meaning, and it just seemed tired.

I got thru 150 pages. I had to quit. I skimmed the rest of it really really quickly to get the jist of it. I looked up a summary of the book on the net, and I didn't miss anything in the plot. I wanted to like this book. But, no go.

Maybe you just had to be there...or be "zonked"....
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
lise
This was an iconic book back in the late 60s/70s but it's long past its sell-by date. It could be viewed as a historical document perhaps if one is interested in it for that. I lived through the 60s and 70s which were not boring times. But this bombastic, verbose book certainly has become a huge bore.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carlainya
I read this book many years ago when I was a teenager, and think it is a book that everyone should read. Being one who is 'experienced', I can say to you this book is truthful about the world of 'trippin'.Read it and learn how to open your mind and explore your horzions.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
atiyeh pedram
I was truly excited to begin the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test after hearing some good buzz about it. Unfortunately, I feel as though I was misled. I made it about 160 some odd pages before I stopped reading in lieu of another novel.

Although, to clarify, I do see how many view Wolfe as a revolutionary and a great philosopher of American culture. There were times in the novel where I saw glimpses of genius. However, Wolfe seemed to be his own worst enemy in my opinion. His train of thought was, well "elusive" at best and sporadic and fleeting at worst.

I also would acknowledge that the book aims to capture a generation that rebelled against tradition, even in its writing style. Yet I do not feel it was done in a way that was able to also keep a fluidity to the novel.

Someone suggested reading after a few glasses of wine... maybe I should have tried that.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
conal
Bringing alive the truth behind the changes in the new world order, if one book DOES have all the answers, it's this one.
Every party, every rave, every record, everything today has been put where it is today because of this book, and the events surrounding it.
Buy it!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
phyllis calanoy
I have just finished reading the electric kool aid acid test by Tom Wolfe for my college literature class. I enjoyed reading about the epic adventure that Key Kesey, the main character who is suble and alegorical in his methode of comunication amongst the other characters. Unlike most modern central characters he is not a mook begging attention but quite the oppisite. His method of using a light, relaxed, and even comforting tone served him well as he led his gang of friends and strays known as the merry pranksters on an adventure to new york on an old bus.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nanette
This book will provide you with a lot of knowledge about pop culture and the hippie movement origin, evolution and expansion worldwide. It must be an obligatory purchase if you are interested in psychedelia.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
karthik
I applaud anyone can derive any concept of what is actually going on in this book. The prose is so nonsensical and there are so many made up words and just random sentences that just make you say "what the?" I find this type of prose unreadable. This is something interesting to delve into for a chapter or two, but the content is barely visible. There is hardly even any idea of what is actually happening in the story because it is just smothered in the nonsense writing style.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
stephanie
Though I think the sixties were an interesting time period in American history, I could just not get into this book whastoever. If you were there and understood what went on in San Fransisco in the 60s, you might love this book. But I think that it's the most nonsensical piece of crap I have ever come across. At first, the book is interesting, but you have to admit that 432 pages is a BIT too much for completely incoherent acid ramblings, right?

The book is so unbelievably disjointed that I thought briefly that maybe "Tom Wolfe" was an alias for an experiment that involved a million monkeys on a million typewriters. But unfortunately it is the great journalist who wrote this, who by the way is responsible for a number of fascinating books like Bonfire of the Vanities. Say it isn't so.

I hate to knock Wolfe, but I could write a better, more coherent book than this if I went up to a computer and typed completely random thoughts and words for an hour. Maybe this book is why so many people hate hippies. If you were there and have taken acid, you will love this book. Others will think, "God, no wonder acid is illegal now, since so-called books like this were actually written under the influence of it and printed to bore readers out of their minds!"
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
simone
Does the caption paint a strong enough picture? It's five-thirty in the morning and i just finished the last page of one incredibly condescending, disingenuous look at 60's drug culture by an admitted conservative hanger-on with no tangible ties or affiliations to the scene whatsoever. This book did NOT define a generation, and frankly, fellow reviewers, its time to stop parroting phrases from the dust jackets and start developing actual opinions for yourself. I'm hardly a literary buff myself but it doesn't take a genius to realize that a certain degree of commercial success or select critical praise does not validate a book's quality.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is basically an account of acclaimed author Ken Kesey's life circa 65-66, but unfortunately we never once get to know Kesey, or any of the other Merry Pranksters as any more than exaggerated stock stereotypes with no discernible personalities, character traits or range of emotion. We're supposed to believe Kesey bore an illegitimate child with the twenty-something "Mountain Girl" while fleeing from the police and no-one, certainly not his apparent mute-doormat of a wife, so much as bat an eyelash? No, Wolfe's angle was simply to capitalize on the media frenzy and fascination of the drug culture and subject us to page after page of god-awful faux-drug-induced, mock-Kerouc/Burroughs/Leary-imitation free form prose, simultaneously conforming to the same aesthetic he apparently had so much disdain for.

If you need further convincing, may i direct you to the following quotes taken from Time Magazine's 10 questions for Tom Wolfe:
Has the drug culture been stripped of its intellect? Max Stendahl, IPSWICH, MASS.
Ha! That's assuming that it had an intellect. It inevitably leads to total lack of intellect--particularly in the case of LSD, which everyone assumed opened the doors of perception. We've since discovered that it does the opposite.
Did you ever use LSD or marijuana? John Foster JEJU-DO, SOUTH KOREA
No, I never did. LSD is too strong to take. I write about it in the book. They take it once, and for years afterward, they have these flashbacks. Just driving over a bump in the road on a motorcycle can do it. (??) I tried marijuana once.

The culture was admittedly flawed, yes, but still possessed a strong vitality, a spirited iconoclasm and sense of personal freedom and desire for self-discovery worth of much more merit than this book has to offer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
aisling
There is no plot or development. There is no structure. Its just a random (completely uninteresting) story about extraordinarily stoned, unwashed self-absorbed people with no direction or substance.

I've made it to page 150, and cannot force myself to read another word.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
suzy jobst
If you are looking at this because it's linked to Hunter S. Thompson, I would steer clear. The book was wholly unreadable. I left it on a Boeing 777 over the atlantic after about 50 pages. If you like Hunter, dont expect much from this.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
sarah brown
I ABSOLUTELY HATED THIS BOOK. IT IS A BOOK BY A WRITER (WOLFE) EXPLOITING ANOTHER WRITER (KESEY) WHO IS HIMSELF EXPLOITING A BUNCH OF BUBBLE-HEADED WASTRELS HIGH ON ACID. I HAVE NOTHING BUT CONTEMPT FOR THIS CHAPTER IN OUR HISTORY AND THOSE WHO "LIVED" IT (I PUT "LIVED" IN QUOTES BECAUSE I BELIEVE THOSE HIGH ON ACID ARE NOT REALLY LIVING). IF I HAD READ THIS BEFORE I READ THE WONDERFUL "BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES", I WOULD NEVER HAVE READ ANOTHER BOOK BY TOM WOLFE. DREADFUL.
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