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Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream [Paperback]

Jay Stevens
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 1998
Storming Heaven digs beneath the headlines to bring an amazing science story in which Harvard professors become holy men, and a generation drops out to seek cosmic bliss--only to find something much darker.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Stevens has written a gripping account of the use and abuse of mind-altering drugs in recent decades. He explains the fascination of mescaline and psilocybin for psychologists interested in behaviorial change. He documents the insidious role of the CIA in testing mind-control drugs. He traces the convoluted path of Timothy Leary from his position as research psychologist at Harvard to his role as guru advocating the use of LSD to achieve spiritual utopia. He descibes the outwardly placid social climate of the 1950s, and vividly contrasts the dramatic upheavals of the 60s, sketching pulsing portraits of Allen Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, and Jack Kerouac. Packed with facts, this is social history at its most compelling. Carol R. Glatt, New Jersey Bioethics Commission, Trenton
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

For Aldous Huxley it was the next step in human evolution; for the CIA it was a potential tool for mind control; for Timothy Leary it was the liberator of humankind (a belief that led to his being branded "the most dangerous man in America"); for Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters it fueled the notorious Acid Tests; and it was the improbable common denominator that united such disparate figures as Allen Ginsberg, Cary Grant, G. Gordon Liddy, and Charles Manson.

In this brilliant, riveting, and exhaustively researched book, Jay Stevens relates the history of that "curious molecule," LSD. He unearths a story of Pynchonesque complexity, tells it with novelistic flair, and irrefutably demonstrates LSD's pivotal role in the cultural upheavals that shook America in the 1960s and changed the country forever.

"Fascinating . . . The most compelling account yet of how these hallucinogenic, or psychedelic, drugs became an explosive force in postwar American history."-Newsweek

"Jay Stevens proves himself a superb social historian with a ripping good story to tell. He tells it brilliantly."-Commonweal

"Tirelessly researched and discursive enough to provide a quite enthralling read. A prize-worthy social and cultural history."-The Washington Times Magazine

"In this brilliant, engaging work, Stevens explores the hallucinogenic heart of that weird shiver in American history that was the 60s . . . exemplary history, compelling and committed."-Kirkus Reviews

In addition to Storming Heaven, Jay Stevens co-wrote Drumming at the Edge of Magic with Mickey Hart.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "Turn On" To This Fascinating Book! April 4 2003
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Quality journalistic-type writing March 26 2003
_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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5.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Weave of an Interesting History Jan. 15 2003
In the spirit of the subject matter, the best word to describe this book 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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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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating History
It seems to me, as others have said, that the discovery of LSD ranks up there with the top scientific discoveries of the century. Read more
Published on March 2 2001 by nonamespecified
5.0 out of 5 stars A trip
Let's get a couple of things straight: No, I am not the author. No, I'm not related to the author. Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2000 by Jay Stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute gem!
I loved this book. It had me gripped to it from start to finish. It facinated, humoured and impired me. Read more
Published on July 28 2000 by Richard J Murphy
5.0 out of 5 stars a missing part of american culture revealed
if they taught this kind of history in school, I don't think i would have ever been bored enough to draw stupid comics of stick figures running about the pages of my notes and... Read more
Published on March 20 2000 by Tim Shortnacy
5.0 out of 5 stars read this now, you are late
This book is a fair account of the affects and consequenses of mature ingestion of the chemical Lysergic acid---please read thids book it is an eye opener for the skeptic--get it... Read more
Published on March 17 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars enthralled
Storming Heaven chronicles the advent of LSD (as well as many other halucinagens) from its early days as a pharmaceutical curio to indispensable ingredient of sixties social... Read more
Published on Feb. 5 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Technicolored Masterpiece of a Maelstrom
This is very likely the best book I have ever read. It gave me a taste for any non-fiction which is written in "story" form. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2000 by Ian Hough
5.0 out of 5 stars The Battle betwen God's Flesh and Green Money
Segue to the end: money wins. Personal greed (or some variant of Maslow's hierarchy) triumphs over freedom of the mind. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars A comfortably mediocre history of the 1960s
I'm at a loss to understand why everyone likes this books so much. One guess is that that the "five star" rating reflects the weirdness and coolness of the events... Read more
Published on July 2 1999
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