The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe

Book #397

Reviewer: t, of as long as i’m singing

I read it once before. By accident. On purpose. Who knows. But I know I read it, and that in part, is why I decided to review it. It was a thrill the first time, and – so far – even more enlightening the second. Even if my jaded and olden eyes, see it now (read: Grok it) in a wholly other light.

Lance has told me before that his sentences are more succinct than mine. And he’s right. Or is it “write?” My sentences tend to stroll very slowly over to where the period is, using as many commas, dashes and doo-hickeys as needed to get there. But Tom Wolfe baby, well he’s the mollyfocking (his word, not mine) king of the commas, the prince of the air, the earth, and the soul of commas. He makes me look like a rank focking amateur.

With this book, at any rate, he tumbles through thoughts and ideas, comma-ing his way along, never letting a period get in his way. Never letting anything like structure tell him how to play out “his movie.” In fact, here’s exactly how he describes a certain trip early on in the book:

“But then – soar. Perry Lane, Perry Lane.

Miles

        Miles


                 Miles

                           Miles


                                     Miles

                                               
Miles


                                                         Miles


                                                                     Under all that good vegetation from Morris Orchids and having visions of

Faces


          Faces


                    Faces


                              Faces
 

                                       Faces


                                                Faces


                                                         Faces


                                                                    so many faces rolling up behind the eyelids, faces he has never seen before, complete with spectral cheekbones, pregnant eyes, stringy wattles, and all of a sudden: Chief Broom.”

Trips.

Trips are what this book is all about. A certain author by the name of Ken Kesey, in fact (that cat who wrote “One Who Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” – oh yeah, THAT Chief Broom) and his jolly bunch of friends-addicts-devotees-leeches-whatever, who call themselves The Merry Pranksters – like saying it makes it so – adorn every page of this literary plague upon the good, simple, un-stoned, not-on-the-bus folk of the world, as they travel – well who knows/cares where – all over in their mind-crazed dolled-up bus of a bus.

It’s not a book for the faint-hearted. Nor the half-hearted. Nor the heartless, I suppose, but who cares about the heartless, as they are most decidedly NOT on the bus.

Wolfe, for his part, tries to write the book in the vernacular of The High. And I, for my part, almost began this review with “I’ve never taken acid before, but Tom Wolfe makes me feel as if I had.” But only because he did. And that’s why I love this read – even IF it didn’t make my personal top ten (dude, there can only be ten, alright?)

I read it once. And loved it. And then never laid eyes upon it again. That is until 1,001 Books allowed me to review it. A new copy was gonna cost me sixteen fat daddy ‘Merican dollars. Way too much for a book I read once, would read again, and then probably shelf forever. So from the library I stole it. Stupid Fockers at the Buffalo library, had three copies, and wouldn’t ya know, all of them were sitting all dusty-like at “central.” The one location no one without a gun goes to – so I had to request a transfer for a copy to one of the more docile, suburban, urbane – SAFE – locations. The transfer cost me a quarter. A quarter I haven’t paid yet. A quarter I never will.

What does that have to do with the story itself? Nothing. It’s part of my movie, not Wolfe’s. But his short tale (if you consider 411 pages short) is all about “the movie.” His – Kesey’s – Yours – Mine – The Hell’s Angels – the Unitarians – Hell yeah, even the Prankster’s movie.

The Pranksters. The best part, man. Because you see Wolfe, well, he makes them sound somewhat/a whole hell of a lotta like cool – you know, like all druggie drag ragtime USA authors do… but then this cat shows you how they most-to-all slowly lose their minds as a result.

Because, you know, in the end, the party’s over, the never-ending string of commas have to end, and if, IF, all you’ve done is stoned, and groked, and sat on the bus, well then, all that mind-opening, mind-blowing vision – FOCKIN’ VISION – helped only you and your fellow travelers. Only you, and the other day-glo folk living on the bus. A bus that most of the rest of us spend just a few short years on, never return to again.

A cautionary tale. Definitely worth a read.


*Reviewer’s note: Much like Wolfe did, but not nearly as well, I attempted to write this review in the “vernacular of The High,” in order to provide you with a flavor as to how the book reads. Quite enjoyable at times, maddening at others.

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3 thoughts on “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe

    • t September 18, 2012 / 12:22 am

      Thanks, and I hope you enjoy it! Please make sure to drop back in and tell us what you thought =)

  1. Kevin Baker October 3, 2012 / 8:40 am

    Tom Wolfe is the man! It always amazes me how many ideas he can keep spinning in a single sentence. Great review of a great book!

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