Tuesday January 12th, 2010

The Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin

psychedelic-clubDwight Garner calls Lattin’s new book a “rollicking if lightweight group biography” about the crossed paths of Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil at Harvard in the 1960s and the birth of the New Age movement. Alterna-guru Weil was a student at the time (his undergraduate thesis was “The Use of Nutmeg as a Psychotropic Agent”) and the rest were faculty. Garner says that Lattin shows how “[a] version of the 1960s was being invented, one dazzling trip at a time,” and then, after the friendships inevitably fizzled, “tracks all four men as they go their separate ways, trailing stardust and grievances.”

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Ari Goldman writes, “Many of the stories in this book have been told elsewhere, but Lattin tells them with new energy and weaves them together to create a satisfying narrative that re-creates and explains the era.” Garner, more critical of the book’s prose and plotting, still concludes: “This slim book has more than its share of faults. [. . .] I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t enjoy just about every page.”

The Daily Beast has posted an excerpt from the book.

The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America by Don Lattin
HarperOne, 272 pp., $24.99