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Barefoot in the Head by Brian Aldiss

Barefoot in the Head (original 1969; edition 2009)

by Brian Aldiss

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Title:Barefoot in the Head
Authors:Brian Aldiss
Info:Faber and Faber (2009), Paperback, 236 pages
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Barefoot in the Head by Brian W. Aldiss (1969)



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Really disappointed here; I was more than ready to love any book with a title like "Barefoot in the Head". Similar in premise to the Roger Corman directed film "Wild in the Streets" that came out the year before this, or "Gasss", that came out the year after , it recounts the misadventures of an acid pop culture messiah in a post hallucinogen bombed Europe. Everybody's tripping, society is collapsing, and our man has the key to the new way of thinking in this tripped out world. Is it a satire? I couldn't tell you.
So, how does an author represent the acid experience that everyone is going through? Aldiss decides to use the compound word, homonym engorged punning technique that Joyce uses for Finnegan's Wake. Well, that certainly makes for incredibly difficult reading, but alas, does not convincingly approximate the hallucinogenic experience for the reader, nor does it seem a likely linguistic manifestation with regard to the hallucinating characters in the story, IMO.

As to the story of our messiah: you never really learn much about him as a character past the first chapter or so. He screws his mistresses and drifts through wacked-out falling apart Europe, driving around with his entourage Mad Max style, delivering the word to the turned on yet increasingly starving and disease ridden. Someone tries to make a film about him, there's a would be screening in Brussels, and the city is set on fire. At least I think that's what happens.

I'm usually sympathetic to a fault to extreme literary exercises, but I found this to be an excruciating drag to read. This is my second Aldiss -my first was the novella "The Saliva Tree" - I didn't like that either . Aldiss is a real smart guy and there's certainly talent on display here, but I'm just not getting on the wavelength . I'm certainly not going anywhere near "Report on Probability A" after getting beaten up for no justifiable reason by this -perhaps his more main stream efforts like a Hellaconia novel, will be more rewarding to try.

In short, not worth the trouble.There are some interesting ideas in this book, but they are all more convincingly developed upon by compatriot writer J.G. Ballard in his excellent acid trip of a novel "Crash". ( )
5 vote arthurfrayn | Jul 11, 2010 |
"Barefoot in the Head" (1969) is a celebrated and derided SF novel. The premise is that owing to yet another dust-up in the Middle East, Europe has been attacked with chemical weapons. The chemicals are of the LSD variety and last a long time. Nobody has a grip on reality. Aldiss makes cruel jibes at the then-current hippie notion that the world a better place if everybody turned on. Like hell, the world would frickin’ fall to pieces if everybody was trippin’ all the time. Aldiss’ acid-laced use of language in this novel will bring to mind the most daring experiments of Joyce in Ulysses.

To be honest, in a normal time I may not have finished a novel told in stream-of-consciousness, but when I read it, I had just arrived in Latvia in January 1994. Every paperback I had crammed in the suitcase was precious. However, I confess that I didn’t read "Barefoot" twice like the I re-read huge sections of James Webb’s "Fields of Fire", a great Nam novel.
1 vote Kung_BaiRen | Mar 21, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brian W. Aldissprimary authorall editionscalculated
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0586049886, Paperback)

Barefoot in the Head, by Aldiss, Brian. 4 1/4 x 7.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:45 -0400)

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