One of my lingering questions wonders why the intensity of the hippie experience didn’t flower more fully in fiction.
Yes, I know hippies were considered “laid back” and “mellow,” but that’s only part of the picture. A lot of what we felt was indeed incredible and new. Yet while the music of the era gives both lyrics and a soundtrack to the late ’60s and early ’70s, the literary parallel runs thin. Most of the prose is in the non-fiction side of the aisle – memoir, especially, and sociology – works like Barry Miles’ Hippie. Within that flourished a range of small publishing operations, such as Straight Arrow Books and Ten-Speed Press.
But novels are another matter.
As I’ve already noted, Richard Brautigan and Gurney Norman (Divine Right’s Trip) did give wondrous voice to the action. Add to that Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey, T.C. Boyle’s Drop City, and we’re soon at the fringe. Thomas Pyncheon’s Vineland, Lisa Mason’s Summer of Love, and Jan Kerouac’s Baby Driver get nods. I’d add Edward Abbey, Tom Robbins, and John Nichols to the list. And then?
As Michael Wards, author of Bitch, a novel about Berkeley 1968-73, commented on an earlier post here, “Today I don’t think 20-year-olds would believe their grandparents were capable of anything that actually happened then.”
That, I suppose, is the entire point. We came so close to a real revolution across the social and economic spectrum. That vision needs to be kept alive and rekindled. Especially in the face of today’s repressive regime.
Aspiring writers are urged to read, read, read the work of others, both for inspiration to delve deeper and harder and for models of top-notch work.
Let me confess that in drafting and revising my own manuscripts over the years, I’ve found certain authors have served as patron saints for a particular work-at-hand. They’ve provided a kind of compass for the direction I hoped to travel and perhaps some companionship on the journey. They’ve also been a magical touchstone. That’s not to say I was attempting to emulate their style or appropriate their substance, but rather I felt their energy all the same. Sometimes all it takes is a single sentence to remind me when I’m getting too wordy, need sharper language, or even require some fresh images. With all due apologies to them for my own shortcomings, let me pay homage to these beacons my in own literary quest to date:
Subway Hitchhikers, Richard Brautigan
Ashram, Kathleen Norris during the revisions
Hippie Drum, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs
Hippie Love, Charles Bukowski
Daffodil Sunrise, Kurt Vonnegut
Blue Rock, Anne Waldman
Promise, Jay McInerney
Hometown News, Ishmael Reed
Braided Double-Cross, Ted Berrigan
St. Helens in the Mix, Anne Tyler
Reflections in a Shattered Mirror, Diane Wakoski
Kokopelli’s Hornpipe, Barry Lopez
You get the idea. And that’s in addition to all of the reference works consulted for particular details or mood.
Your own observations are most welcome. And for you writers, how about ‘fessing up?
Blame the Pill or Vietnam protests or your first toke, but once you crossed the line with just one, you were well on your way to hippie. The ensuing conflicts escalated to epic dimensions in previously tranquil college towns like Daffodil. And America’s never been quite the same since.
So this, DL thought, is what all the fuss is about. It would have seemed impolite, even out of place, to have declined the offer. … He suspected he was experiencing something very akin to seduction.
To learn more about my Daffodil Sunrise novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.
In a generation that vowed its sexual relationships would not repeat what it saw in its parents, a couple’s journey began with a shared promise. But what if their words held differing expectations and meanings? In my novel, in the initial attraction of opposites, Jaya and Eric soon leap from his small town in the Midwest and head, via the Ozarks, to their promised land in the Pacific Northwest only to find themselves living in an orchard surrounded by desert. Building a life together is more challenging than they ever anticipated, especially in the face of their rapidly changing situations. Living up to their promise becomes a spinning compass in their faces. Can they learn from their mistakes and regain direction? The clock is running throughout my novel Promise.
The fabric of communities across America has been shaped and informed by the local newspaper. Even before the arrival of online editions, these daily journals were under stress on multiple fronts, beginning with owners who were bleeding the profits rather than reinvesting in the future. Idealistic reporters, photographers, and editors who saw all the potential for growth were constantly clipped by the demands of the bottom line. Can democracy survive without a healthy press? My Hometown News novel looks at what could have happened – and is happening – both ways.
One of my favorite passages in all of poetry comes from Howard McCord’s “Longjaunes His Periplus”:
A chest of maps is a greater legacy than a case of whisky.
My father left me both.
Like my younger one, I’ve always been fond of maps. My bedroom wall was lined with tacked-up National Geographic charts, which tended to sag in our humid summers.
I was reminded of this the other morning when I was looking for a Boston street map, just in case I lost my bearings. Yes, I could have gone to the maps at Yahoo or Google. Even looked for the satellite views and all of the scary ability to snoop that goes with it. I couldn’t, though, use a GPS, neo-Luddite that I partly remain.
So I opened the drawer and here’s what I found (I won’t give you the years, though many are from the early ’80s):
Seacoast (New Hampshire).
Sierra Club USA.
Long Island/New York City.
Saugus Iron Works.
Walking Tours of Bath.
Dover (0ne of a half-dozen varieties).
Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Has a great stand of mountain laurel overlooking the Merrimack River.
University of New Hampshire campus.
Museums of Boston.
Doctors Without Borders global view (two copies).
Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Paul Revere House in Boston.
Manchester, New Hampshire.
New Hampshire (one of several varieties).
National Geographic the Making of New England and another of Canada.
Mount Rainier, including trails.
New York City subways (two versions, three maps).
Brunswick and neighboring Maine.
National Geographic Endangered Earth.
White Mountains trail guides.
Pawtuckaway State Park.
Trumbull County, Ohio.
Baltimore (two versions).
Britain and Ireland.
Historic New England properties.
Lake Champlain Ferries.
Maine State Ferry Service.
York (Maine) Water District trails.
Minute Man National Monument, a series of sites in Massachusetts …
And that’s before we get to the drawer of topographical maps, especially those from my Cascades years. Or the books and atlases. Or the genealogical maps, Guilford County, especially in those files.
Oh, the memories! And you want to tell me they’re obsolete? Fat chance!