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Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream Paperback – Sep 1 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (Sept. 1 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802135870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135872
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 14.1 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #431,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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Had you asked your average hippie about beginnings, you would have discovered there were as many as there were hippies-everyone had a favorite chronology. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback
I was born in 1960, so I was a little to young to appreciate the "Summer Of Love", Haight-Ashbury and the entire late 60's counter-culture movement. My fascination with that era began with Jimi Hendrix and other musicians associate with it. Most of the social aspects I was aware of were written by the "slanted" view of the media, teachers, politicians and parents; not the most objective of viewpoints
When I heard about this book I picked it up ... ASAP and was not disappointed. I will not go into lengthy discussions of this book like other reviewers (or even spell all the words correctly). While reading, Jay Stevens was placing me "there", "right there" where is was all happening from Aldous Huxley, to Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey.
The story unfolds "expertly" and the characters involved are so well described, it feels like I've met them personally.
While much of the information is public knowledge, there are many fascinating, generally unknown tidbits: from the CIA's LSD involvement to insights on Leary & Kesey.
Anyone who holds any interest in this subject will not be disappointed with this book. From someone who grew up on The Brady Bunch, The Monkees & Happy Days....this book is a definite eye opener into a cultural wave I wish I had been riding.... so "Turn On, Tune In & Get This Book".
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Format: Paperback
_Storming Heaven_ is a non-ficticious account of the history of the spread of LSD in America and England during the 50's and 60's. It gives detailed accounts of all of the major players in the early days of the synthesization and distribution of this drug. It is not as thoughtful or philosophical as I hoped, and has little to say about the implications and nuances of the actual effects of the drug. However, I came to accept this book for what it is, which is a matter-of-fact description of how this drug progressed from the university offices and laboratories to the streets of San Francisco. This book has much to say about both the east-coast and west-coast acid scenes of the 50's and 60's. In the east, you have Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Alan Watts, and their whole gang of weirdos hanging out in an acid-soaked mansion in Millbrook NY. It is very interesting to read about the(mis)adventures of these three men, all of whom (especially Alan Watts) are gifted and accomplished writers. For those who are fans of their work, _Storming Heaven_ is a must-read if for no other reason than to get some idea of the formative influences of these writers.
The west coast scene, in contrast, was less intellectual and more of a free-for-all. Jay Stevens describes the exploits of Ken Kesey, and the riders of his magic bus. Of course any discussion of Ken Kesey will inevitably lead to a discussion of the Grateful Dead, and the handiwork of their "chemist" mr. Owlsley. Stevens also covers the involvement of the Hell's Angels in this west coast movement. All of this makes for very entertaining, albeit light, reading.
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Format: Paperback
In the spirit of the subject matter, the best word to describe this book is...cool. The author appears to have a genuine desire to objectively explore the history, for better or worse, of LSD and its role in American culture. Stevens does not approach this work being for nor against LSD. He just looks. As a result, this book comes out with flying colors...pun intended.
This book is a diamond in the rough for those who wish to take that same exploratory approach in reading about LSD and the history of this potent and controversial drug. It's not geared for people who are vehemently pro/anti LSD. Preconceived notions should be checked at the door before embarking on this adventure.
Stevens looks at LSD from its very beginnings, where characters such as Hoffman, Osmond, and Huxley help pave the way for much of what comes later in the book. As the narrative moves on, familiar names such as Ginsberg, Leary, Burroughs, Kerouac, Alpert, Metzner, Kesey, Cassady, Weil, Watts, and Wolfe, among others, enter and exit the stage like bit actors in this great showcase. If you've ever been enamored with the doings of any of those names, this book weaves a pattern from threads of various legacies in one fascinating tapestry.
As a caveat to the above paragraph, none of those characters is covered in much detail, with the exception of Timothy Leary. This is more a result of Leary's intense involvement with the scene than Stevens' focusing on one extraordinary character. Some of those people (Burroughs, for instance) make very brief but interesting appearances.
In addition to those mentioned, many unknown but intriguing characters fill the pages of this book. More than likely, every one of them will lead you to read on, until another name segues into the narrative.
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Format: Paperback
This investigative tour de force covers in great detail the years from 1943 (and a little before) up through the LSD hysteria circa 1965-7. I'm marking it down a star because of its inexplicable lack of an index, which greatly reduces its value as a research reference -- which it surely deserves to be. There are so many biographies trying to be told simultaneously here that it sometimes got a bit confusing. It also tends to go off on occasional tangents, digressing at what to me seemed like too great a length regarding some of the characters of the story which (again) to me seemed more like minor ones not worth the many background pages devoted to them. But those are rather small quibbles really.
Stevens is pretty good at keeping central issues front and center as events unfold: eg, how the psychological models evolved over time, and the socio-political question of whether the power of this amazing molecule was for the masses or just for the few -- both of which became more or less moot as events over-ran things.
I liked "Acid Dreams" a microgram or two more than this book, probably because it emphasizes cultural rather than personal history more, but still had a difficult time putting "Storming Heaven" down for very long. It's extremely information-rich and well-written -- it's rather dispassionately objective while still being interesting. It would probably only disappoint those looking for simple answers.
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