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Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great…

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

by Martin Torgoff

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743230116, Paperback)

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." 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 centered 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 1960s, 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 color and detail to the chronicle. Here's Herbert Huncke, the unapologetic hustler and heroin addict who lurked on the periphery of '50s bohemian scene and turned up as a character in William Burroughs' pulp memoir Junkie. Into the 1960s, 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 the by pot legalization group NORML. Then picture George H.W. 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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:37 -0400)

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

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