It must have been in my junior year of high school, 1969-70, that I bought this book. Budding bookman that I was, I spent my Saturdays riding my bicycle to the Colonial Plaza and the new Winter Park Mall to hit the bookstores and news stands.
There is a lot of curiosity now about life before the "revolution", as evidenced by TV shows like Mad Men and the film, Revolutionary Road. In 1969, in Orlando, Florida, hippies and anti-war demonstrators were only seen in the media: on television, in newspapers, and in the news weeklys like Time and Newsweek. Many larger cities had underground newspapers, like Atlanta's Great Speckled Bird, or the Berkeley Barb, to which several of the articles in this collection are attributed. In Orlando, we had to make do with two national publications, Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone, for sympathetic coverage of this "new underground".
AM radio did not play most of the music we wanted to hear, as bands like the Jefferson Airplane, the Cream, Steppenwolf, Hendrix's Experience, broke from the short AM format and explored controversial material. The appearance of non-commercial FM stations provided a lifeline for alternative rock fans. In Orlando we had FM 107.
Looking at it now, I think Kornbluth's anthology has stood the test of time. It is a fine snapshot of the Counterculture at the end of the sixties, before Theodore Roszak so named it. It is worth noting that it is almost entirely the work of men. Liza Williams rails against freeloading "hippiebums", but there is not a whiff of feminism.
Jesse Kornbluth is still around, having gone on to a successful career as a print journalist.
Forty years after, I confess I am conflicted about it all. At the time, it seemed pretty clear cut. Either you wanted to keep the nigger down and nuke Hanoi, or you didn't. But in retrospect, I have felt like I was dragged into an argument among my elders. Beats and Squares. I am a Catholic now, but that would not have saved me at the time, as religious orders and seminaries hemorrhaged in the confused aftermath of Vatican II.
It is a part of who I am. The other day, my wife said to me, "I'm into fruit!". And I replied, "Well, don't get all yinned out". And yes, (as she comments), hearing ourselves, we laughed.
1 month ago