9780743230117 / 0743230116

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


Publisher:Simon & Schuster



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About the book:

Martin Torgoff came of age just about the same time as the drug boom, a circumstance that informs his overview of America's "Great Stoned Age" in Can't Find My Way Home. Chronicling the irrepressible onslaught of mind-altering substances from the end of World War II through the close of the century, Torgoff (whose previous publishing efforts have centred around rockers Elvis Presley and John Cougar Mellencamp) intersperses the personal with the historical. Laying the groundwork with his own recollections of indulgence beginning in the late 60s, the author flashes back to the Beat era, which he asserts opened the door for all that followed. Interviews with the obscure and celebrated add colour and detail to the chronicle. Here's Herbert Huncke, the unapologetic hustler and heroin addict who lurked on the periphery of the 50s bohemian scene and turned up as a character in William Burroughs' pulp memoir Junkie.

Into the 60s, there's acid guru Timothy Leary, poet Allan Ginsburg, record producer Paul Rothchild, Woodstock MC Wavy Gravy, and others caught up in a wave of revolutionary experimentation and excess. The 70s leads to the cocaine craze (embodied here by party girl Suzie Ryan), which begets drug wars (with plenty of casualties on both sides), Just Say No, the crack epidemic, and rave culture. While Torgoff's tome is too capricious to serve as the final word on America's drug obsession, it's eminently readable and entertaining, thanks to its expansive, pop-culture-informed tone. There's an almost insane momentum to this tale, with dozens of astonishing twists and turns. Imagine Jimmy Carter's drug czar, Dr Peter Bourne, snorting cocaine at a party thrown by pot legalisation group NORML. Then picture George HW Bush's point man on drugs, William Bennett, remarking in an interview that it would be "morally plausible" to behead drug dealers. So much for moderation. --Steven Stolder,

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