inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #0 of 349: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 31 Mar 07 08:11
Welcome to the Inkwell, Scott McFarlane!
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #1 of 349: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 31 Mar 07 08:12

Our next guest, Scott MacFarlane, has lived most of his life in the
Pacific Northwest.  As a newspaper reporter, a VW bus vagabond, and,
for the last ten years, a writer and Realtor, he's led quite a
meandering career path.  As an actor, his glimpse of fame was
from a bit part in "An Officer and a Gentleman" where he served in
Richard Gere's platoon. As an artist he did two stints as a
face-painter at a Country/Western bar on New Orleans' Bourbon Street
during Mardi Gras in the early '80s.  In the early '90s he served as
the first executive director of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center,
helping raise $21 million to build the official interpretive center of
the C.G. National Scenic Area in The Dalles, Oregon.  Today he lives in
the Skagit Valley of Western Washington where, in addition to writing,
he enjoys salt water kayak fishing.

With "The Hippie Narrative," Scott turns his attention to authorship.
As an outgrowth of his MFA in Creative Writing in 2005, he has written
a scholarly analysis of the key works of literature from the 1960's
and '70s counterculture, including "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest,"
"Trout Fishing in America," "Siddhartha," "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid
Test," "Divine Right's Trip" and "Another Roadside Attraction." The
book argues that the fifteen works examined in "The Hippie Narrative"
should form the canon of countercultural literature.

Leading the conversation with Scott is Cynthia Dyer-Bennet, who's done
a fair bit of wandering through the fields of employment, too. She's
been a airplane pump jockey on Maui and a fashion model in Australia,
an education reporter in California, and, since fall 1998, an employee
of The WELL.

Great to have you here, Scott. What's up, Cynthia?
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #2 of 349: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 2 Apr 07 06:56

Thanks for the introduction, Bruce. And a big hello to Scott MacFarlane.

Scott, can you tell us how you came to write this book about hippie 
literature in the '60s?
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #3 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 2 Apr 07 08:29
Thanks, Bruce and Cynthia.  It's great to be here!

Before I moved back to the Pacific Northwest in 2005, I was living in
the Phoenix area.  I was writing a novel and had decided I wanted to
pursue an MFA in creative writing.  I had been invited to take a
graduate fiction writing workshop at Arizona State University from Ron
Carlson, a great writing teacher and fine author.  

In addition to this workshop, I also signed up for an American
Autobiography seminar taught by Kay Sands.  In the class of twelve, we
had eight Ph.D. candidates in English, and four creative writing grad

Our grade in the class was dependent on an individual writing and
research project, except that the creative writing students were
allowed to use personal autobiography as the core of their project, as
long as it was accompanied with a scholarly introduction to lead into
our autobiography.  

For my project, I decided to revisit the full year I spent living and
traveling in a VW Bus when I was in my mid-20s.  My wife then was an
excellent pen & ink illustrator. We had left Washington state directly
following the "Officer and a Gentleman" experience and, starting in
California, I would go around to people and businesses with these
matted prints of her artwork. 

In Marin county, in 1981, we traded our perfectly fine Toyota Corona
for a dented orange 1963 VW Bus that had a small kitchenette in it. 
Our son was three at the time and loved life on the road.  We gradually
worked our way east through Arizona, Texas, New Orleans, and Tennessee
selling these prints to sustain us on the road.  So, for this grad
class in American Autobiography, I wrote a short memoir called, "The
Trippy Art of Being or Not Being Hippie."

The scholarly part of the project, the introduction to the memoir, was
a very brief overview of the key autobiographies and biographies of
the hippie era. This led me begin differentiating works such as Betty
Freidan's "The Feminine Mystique," or Alex Haley's "The Autobiography
of Malcolm X," from Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," and
Norman Mailer's "The Armies of the Night." 

The fundamental differentiation between the feminist and black (or
other ethnic) activists of the counterculture era and the hippies, had
to do with voluntarism.  One does not choose their gender or ethnicity,
but one chooses to be hippie.  Also, the liberationist movements of
women or minorities were fundamentally based on the struggle to gain
opportunities for enfranchisement in the mainstream, while the hippies
were comprised mostly of disaffected children of the mainstream who
were challenging many core precepts of being enfranchised.

When Ron Carlson suggested that I consider attending the low residency
MFA program in creative writing at Antioch University Los Angeles, I
decided to enroll there. It proved to be a great fit, allowing me to
work full time.  

Before I began at Antioch, I knew that for my required
MFA critical paper, I was going to continue from where I left off and
write a survey of hippie narratives, which I did, though my focus
narrowed as I delved into the research. 

I submitted the paper to the Journal of Popular Culture and it was
accepted for publication (but because of the book, it was later
withdrawn by me).  I was also invited by the JPC to present this paper
on a panel at the National Convention of the Popular Culture Assoc. and
American Culture Assoc. in San Diego in 2005.  There, at an
exhibitor's booth, I met my eventual publisher who encouraged me to
send them a query.

My primary creative writing mentor at Antioch, Steve Heller, who also
directs the program, read my draft proposal to the publisher and made
the suggestion that I structure the book by devoting one chapter to
each work of literature that I examine.  The "magic" of this suggestion
was twofold.  

First, looking at these works separately and chronologically, I could
focus my literary analysis into tracing stylistic and structural
commonalities and divergences over time. Specifically, I looked to
connect the dots (or find disconnects)between the late modernism of the
'50s/early '60s and the postmodernist
literature of the 1980s and beyond. In terms of literary history,
these hippie narratives do fill in the gap, though it's a long, strange
trip between "late" modernism and "post" modernism.  

Secondly, this approach to look at the hippie epoch through the eyes
of its finest writings, which are quite diverse despite some
commonalities of whimsy and the use of surrealism, allowed me to allow
the authors, in effect, to tell the story of the hippie phenomenon
through their literature.  

I had some very rich content to "mine" and was very please with the
larger portrait--or gestalt--of the era that emerged.       
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #4 of 349: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 2 Apr 07 14:50

Your 1981 cross-country VW bus trip sounds like quite an adventure, and I'd
like to talk about that in more depth a bit later. 

But first I want to dig a bit deeper into your thought processes as you
were preparing to write this book. Your choice of books to focus on is
interesting. Some of them -- Cuckoo's Nest, Fear and Loathing, Electric
Kool-Aid Acid Test -- are choices I totally concur with. These are books
with themes and memes that resonated with the hippie ethos. 

But why did you choose "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me" over 
"Catch 22" for example? And though I can see it's a tough choice, I think
I might have gone with "Cat's Cradle" over "Slaughterhouse Five" when
forced to decide which of these two works informed the counterculture
of the Sixties more. 

How did you choose the books you wanted to highlight?
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #5 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 2 Apr 07 15:50
These are good questions, and there was certainly a healthy dose of
subjectivity involved in my process.  There has been so much literary
criticism focused on The Beat literary movement, but, surprisingly,
nothing comprehensive on the countercultural literature that followed. 
I hope that The Hippie Narrative will open a line of discussion on the
counterculture and its most notable literature, especially since
literature provides such a wonderful interiority and sense of nuance
for any period.

Figuring out which books to focus on in The Hippie Narrative was a
simultaneous process of elimination and selection.  There was an
element of subjectivity involved, but considering that we are coming up
to the 40th anniversary of The Summer of Love, history itself helped
with the choosing and weeding out process.  

First, and most obvious, I selected works from the countercultural era
that have withstood the test of time as literature and were heavily
associated with the time.  Trout Fishing in America, The Electric
Kool-Aid Acid Test and Another Roadside Attraction were the three most
obvious titles that fit this criteria for me.

As for elimination, when I started to research possible titles, there
were a preponderance of traditionally rendered biographies, especially
on the key musicians of the era, such as Dylan, The Beatles, Joan Baez,
Jimi Hendrix, etc., etc.  Stylistically, most of these are written as
a chronology of the person's life (or lives).  The approach for such
biography is usually similar to traditional journalism with a who,
what, when, where and why of key events.  Though filled with
interesting information about this colorful era, as literature, most
are not exceptional.  When I eliminated most biography/autobiography,
for the most part I decided to focus on works I felt had literary

There were two exceptions to this. The emerging New Journalism of the
time was form of  biography/autobiography, but it also expanded our
notions of what was and wasn't literature.  Conversely, there were a
couple books that I didn't find to be exceptional literature, but which
were integral to the hippie experience.

"The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," "The Armies of the Night," and
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" were all literary
biography/authobiography, but were major examples of the emerging New
Journalism.   This form of creative non-fiction was exceptional in the
way it blurred the distinction between the supposed "objectivity" of
the old-guard journalism, and the "subjective" techniques of social
realism found in most traditional novels.  These three books dealt
directly with different aspects of the counterculture in cutting edge
ways that worked to bring the reader inside the minds of "real life"

Even though "Stranger in a Strange Land" won Science Fiction's Hugo
Award in 1962, I found the narrative delivery to be plodding, even
though, conceptually, the story was highly imaginative.  Despite my
take on it as literature, I included the book because of its profound
impact on how the first hippies used it as a sort of handbook to change
how they were viewing both religion and the dynamics of sexual

Likewise, I found Richard Farina's Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up
to Me from 1966 to be frenetically overwrought, but it was consummately
hip and an excellent portrayal of the college campus dynamic that
would erupt a few years later.

At first I wasn't sure how to handle Ken Kesey, the author, and Ken
Kesey, the protagonist.  He was a prominent proto-hippie who wrote two
great novels.  These works, however, were not directly about the
hippies.  However, when I began my close reading of both One Flew Over
the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, I realized how
profoundly both works depicted the shifting dynamic in American culture
in the early '60s.  This cultural shift led to the flourishing of the

Of course, as the main character of Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid
Test, I knew when I started my research that Kesey and the Merry
Pranksters would be featured in The Hippie Narrative.  When all was
said and done, Kesey became the most prominent character in my study. 

I added Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 late in the process,
because like Farina's work, it paints a portrait of American society,
in this case California, just before Psychedelia erupted.  The authors
were college friends from Cornell; both focused on a cabalistic
paranoia that grew to be pandemic with the hippies, and they published
these respective works in 1966.  For these reasons, I examined their
works in the same chapter.

Originally, I planned to include a chapter on Catch-22 as well as
Slaughterhouse Five.  Vonnegut's book, however, was the more iconic of
the two, a much more originally rendered work of literature, and being
published in 1969 (as compared to 1961), it had a more profound impact
on the counterculture and the anti-Vietnam war movement.  When I read
Catch-22, which was written by Heller in the mid-50s, I decided to
discuss it in the chapter on Slaughterhouse-Five, rather than give it a
full chapter. 

As for Cat's Cradle, it was Slaughterhouse Five that launched Vonnegut
into wide-spread literary exposure. The manner in which Vonnegut
handled his experience of war in S-5 was, in literary terms,
groundbreaking. The book not only influenced those in the
counterculture, but also a large number of people in the mainstream
that were beginning to question the Vietnam War. Cat's Cradle, though
written much earlier, actually garnered most of its attention in the
wake of S-5.  

After conversations with my publisher, Robbie Franklin at McFarland &
Co., who took a personal interest in this book, I also added The Fan
Man, which I had only heard of in passing, and Divine Right's Trip,
which until he mentioned it, I had assumed only existed along the
margins of The Last Whole Earth Catalog in 1971.  I located DRT in its
book form and found it to be the quintessential hippie novel, an
exceptionally well-rendered traditional narrative.  

My publisher also suggested Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha which had been
problematic for me only because it was written in 1922.  However,
because Siddhartha and Stranger in a Strange Land were so profoundly
influential to the hippies of the mid-to-late 1960s, I decided to
include them out of the chronological order of when they were
published.  Also, there are many spiritual texts such as The Tibetan
Book of the Dead, The I-Ching, or the Upanishads that greatly
influenced the period, but I didn't include these because they were not

When I came to my chapter on Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction,
I also decided to feature Even Cowgirls Get the Blues from 1976.  This
had to do with providing closure for the book.  Read together, these
two works provide an excellent sense of the shifting Zeistgeist of the
time when the hippie epoch splintered and feminism and environmentalism
were the two most significant successor movements.  Robbins' first two
novels depict this shift to great comic effect.   

So, again, there were three main criteria I used: 1) has the narrative
withstood the test of time as literature? 2) was the text highly
influential to the hippie experience? And/Or; 3) does the work depict
some key aspect of the hippie counterculture and the hippie experience.
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #6 of 349: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 3 Apr 07 08:13

From my count you closely examine fifteen books and two or three
essays in "The Hippie Narrative."  After all the time and attention you
spent looking at these works, which one is your personal favorite?

Also, as a writer you're familiar with the concept of learning to let go of
your "little darlings" -- the words, phrases and/or concepts that you've
fallen in love with that, try as you might to force it, just don't fit into
the piece you're creating. Are there any particular authors' works you were
attached to that you had to omit?
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #7 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 3 Apr 07 09:18
As a reader, I found something jaw-dropping about each book I included
in The Hippie Narrative.  There is some amazing prose here.

In my MFA program at Antioch, I had a mentor, Frank X. Gaspar, who
made the distinction that sometimes we need to stop reading critically
and remember to read "evangelically."

In an evangelical/critical vein, three works from The Hippie Narrative
resonate for me as superb literaure: Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion,
Norman's Divine Right's Trip, and Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.

Great Notion has this incredibly complex structure that, brilliantly,
comes together at the end.  I look at this as an amazingly immersive
and grand work.

Divine Right's Trip, in terms of how the author created a continuous
fictional dream and executed this archetypal "St George and the Dragon"
hero's quest, was a wonderful surprise for me when I wrote The Hippie
Narrative.  The book became pivotal to my core points connecting the
literary history between Late Modernism and Postmodernism. Also, from a
personal perspective, considering that I lived on the road for a year
in an old bus, I could thoroughly relate to both Norman's depiction of
hippie life on the road and the idealism propelling this fictional

One of my favorite books of all time has always been Slaughterhouse
Five. After examining it critically for The Hippie Narrative, I left
this writing project even more impressed with how accessibly brilliant
it is as a work of art. The book is not only accessible, but so
seminally postmodern.  Vonnegut realized it would be the most important
book of his life and it took him twenty-five years following WWII to
finally write it.  Thematically, the stakes were incredibly high. 
Without intrusive didactics, Vonnegut succeeded in pointing out that
the way man chooses to treat his fellow man is ultimately the
responsibility of man.  So it goes.     
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #8 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 3 Apr 07 10:11
As for killing off our little darlings, this applies more to one's own
writing and the need for the editor inside of us to assert him or
herself over the creative attachments we develop for our precious
characters, scenes, phrases, etc.

When you don the hat of literary critic, the editor becomes more
detached from such emotional considerations.  For example and as I
mentioned, I had every intention of including Catch-22 as its own
chapter.  Yet, when I was halfway through my close read of Joseph
Heller's book, I realized that, while the book was important to
questioning war and authority, subjectively, I didn't feel this book
taking place during WWII and written in the mid-50s warranted a
separate chapter. Instead, I talk about its influence in the chapter on
Slaughterhouse-Five.  Slaughterhouse-Five also depicts WWII, but
Vonnegut's use of a disaffected Optometrist in 1968, and the
schizophrenic forays to the planet Trafalmadore applied, in my mind,
more directly to the state of American society in 1969--the
mainstream/countercultural, dove/hawk impasse--far more directly. Billy
Pilgrim's schizophrenia echoed America's cultural schizophrenia of the

Also, I had high expectations that Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up
to Me would be a stronger work of literature.  I probably would have
omitted it as a chapter had Pynchon's much stronger work, The Crying of
Lot 49, not complemented Been Down So Long.  Together, these works
portray the build-up of tension, fed by a cabalistic paranoia, of a
society and culture about to blow internally.  In this way they fit in
well to what I enjoyed labeling as Act I, Narrative Foreplay.

Someone also suggested that I look at Donald Barthelme's Snow White
from 1965. In a process similar to what I described for Catch 22, I
elected to discuss this early postmodern work in conjunction with Trout
Fishing in America. 

With the exception of Siddhartha and Stranger in a Strange Land which,
as narratives, were hippie "bibles", I chose works that were
contemporaneous to the rise, crest and ebb of the hippie epoch from
1962-1976.  This played a key role in how I omitted many works.    
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #9 of 349: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 3 Apr 07 14:45

Other than your discussion of Joan Didion's essay "Slouching Toward
Bethlehem," I noticed that there aren't any female authors included in
"The Hippie Narrative."  

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any female authors who were both 
influential to the counterculture of the Sixties and who were 
contemporaries of the time. However, certainly Anais Nin's work had a big 
influence on the women in my circle of hippie friends back then. Do you 
have any thoughts on this?
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #10 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 3 Apr 07 16:39
When I went researching literary narratives of the hippie period, I
kept an eye out for women writers.  However, based on the criteria I
outlined earlier, I didn't find any recognizable publications (other
than Didion's important essay). I really have no good explanation why
no female hippies of the era were not published or their narratives
widely received, but had Gertrude Stein been in her prime in 1967, she
and Alice B. would have written one dynamite hippie autobiography!! 

(And, as you recognize, Anais Nin, though still influential with her
sensual writings, was not writing contemporaneously with the
counterculture of the late '60s).  

As for Didion, "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" from 1967 had its
insightful passages, but was largely unsympathetic toward the hippie

Even though there were no other women authors in The Hippie Narrative,
I do feature a feminist trajectory from Cuckoo's Nest, Great Notion,
and Divine Right's Trip through Another Roadside Attraction and Even
Cowgirls Get the Blues. 

In the early '70s, Ken Kesey took heat for a sexist portrayal of Nurse
Ratched in Cuckoo's Nest from 1962. I argue in The Hippie Narrative
that this criticism was revisionist and not completely fair to Kesey.
Ratched, after all, would have been an authoritarian monster even if
her ward had been occupied by other women only.  In a '70s interview,
Kesey states that his portrayal of Vivian Stamper in Great Notion from
1964, though he didn't realize it at the time, was fundamentally a
story of Women's Lib in the way Lee and Hank Stamper were battling over
Viv's unconsulted hide.

In Divine Right's Trip from 1971, D.R.'s description of his attraction
for Estelle shows a marked shift in the male attitude toward women.  

Then, with Another Roadside Attraction from 1971, Tom Robbins'
portrayal of the character Amanda is arguably one that describes
literature's first fully liberated woman--socially, sexually and
spiritually.  Of course, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues from 1976 takes
Robbins' portrayal of liberated women to a whole new dimension.

As such, I believe it would be sexist not to include Tom Robbins as
one of the great feminist authors. 
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #11 of 349: Robyn Touchstone (r-touchstone) Tue 3 Apr 07 22:46
Hello, all; Robyn here.  Scott, in reading your book one of the
recurring dichotomies that I noticed between the texts analyzed was
that of outsider/insider to the hippie movement.  

Whereas Kesey and Norman are "on the bus" as it were--literally AND
metaphorically--the New Journalists like Wolfe and Mailer keep at bay
as ambivalent observers.  

Similarly, Oedipa Maas in Pynchon's novel flirts with the company of
hippie kids but never quite blends into the scene (unlike her drop-out
acidhead husband).  Didion in her essay exhibits a similar fascination
while keeping distance and expressing some disapprobation.  The
character of Jubal in Stranger in a Strange Land, though avuncular
toward his ward Michael Valentine Smith, maintains reserve with regard
to the hippie-like cult that crystallizes around the young alien (just
as Heinlein himself distanced himself from the real-life spin-offs
based on the cult in the novel).

Given this tension between & within the canon of texts, what
significant aspects of the hippie movement were the outsiders able to
perceive clearly that the insiders couldn't, at least at the time, and
what aspects do you think that the outsiders just didn't get, if any? 
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #12 of 349: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 4 Apr 07 09:06

(NOTE: Off-site readers with comments or questions may send them to
<> to them added to this conversation)
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #13 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 4 Apr 07 10:14
Hi, Robyn.  Thanks for joining the conversation!

This topic of the insider/outsider Point of View is, indeed, very
central to my observations, and, I think, to the hippie experience. 
You cite several good examples.

The two books directly related to the hippies, where the
insider/outsider perspective can be best differentiated, are The
Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Divine Right's Trip.  

Ironically, in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Wolfe portrays Kesey
coining the phrase "You're either on the bus, or off the bus."  I say,
"ironically," because, as hip as Tom Wolfe tried to seem and, since
both books feature the now archetypal hippie bus trip, there were
simply too many examples in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test where Wolfe
demonstrated that he was "off the bus." 

The book, as I say in The Hippie Narrative, is well-written and a fine
work of literary sociology for the years leading up to the explosion
of Psychedelia, but in anthropological parlance, Wolfe is decidedly on
the "observer" side of the "participant/observer" equation. 
Specifically, and I point out a few examples, Wolfe had some pet
sociological theories (especially related to the makings of a new
religion and the creation of group hierarchies of dominance) that he
imposed on the Merry Pranksters.

In an interview much later, Kesey placed Wolfe's elevation of him as
an icon of the counterculture into a different perspective by pointing
out how Wolfe's writing always had more to do about Wolfe than with who
he was depicting.

By comparison, Gurney Norman, who, with Kesey, attended the same grad
writing program at Stanford in the late '50s, also watched the Merry
Prankster scene unfold, and was an integral part of the Whole Earth
Catalog.  He was an insider to the burgeoning hippie phenomenon.

Even though Divine Right's Trip was fiction and not New Journalism,
there are many subtleties of relationship and attitude captured by
Norman in D.R.'s cross-country bus trip that Wolfe, with the
Pranksters, glosses over with slick phrasing, wild punctuation, or
imposed analysis.  Both excel at crafting a story, so this isn't it. 
The difference, I think, has to do with a shift in consciousness that
Norman went through and Wolfe never did.

Because of this, Norman depicts the interior motivations and struggles
of D.R. as a hippie in Divine Right's Trip far more palpably than
Wolfe is able to portray Ken Kesey as his proto-hippie protagonist in
Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.  Some of this is the difference between
D.R. being a fictional construct and Kesey being a real life character,
but as much as Wolfe purports to use the proven techniques of literary
social realism to write his New Journalism, the reader never gets
fully inside Kesey, the character, in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
I think we get a much better picture of Kesey, the human being, in his
own novels.

This sense of consciousness shift is wonderfully depicted in Tom
Robbins' use of the character Amanda in Another Roadside Attraction.
The way he uses her "enlightenment" to transform Marx Marvelous as the
protagonist of this novel illuminates this insider/outsider sense of
awareness as well as any work of literature from the era.  In Another
Roadside Attraction, Robbins effective use of the comic grotesque is a
surface tool to delve into this profound spiritual shift of
consciousness that exemplifies the counterculture.

So to answer your question, I think the writers as outsiders were able
to capture most of the surface elements of their stories, and often
quite eloquently in the case of Wolfe and Didion, but there was
something of the inner awareness that went lacking.  The insiders to
the hippie phenomenon, by comparison, were able to depict the
subtleties of this spiritual awakening.

Then, as soon as I write this, I think of Hunter S. Thompson in Fear
and Loathing in Las Vegas.  In the chapter of The Hippie Narrative
where I discuss Thompson and this book I explore how this author, as a
self-described drug dilettante, was definitely an insider to the
counterculture, but not a spiritualist.  For this reason, I also point
out that he was never a hippie.      
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #14 of 349: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 4 Apr 07 11:00
Kerouac's On the Road -- you knew it had to be brought up here, and
soon! -- is as much a "hippie bible" as Siddartha, I think, arguably
more so. True, it's usually categorized as the quintessential beat
book, but I think it influenced the counterculture hugely. Where does
it fit in your scheme?  

And what about poetry? 
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #15 of 349: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 4 Apr 07 11:16
No Steal This Book?
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #16 of 349: Diane Shifrin (dshif) Wed 4 Apr 07 12:25
Hi Scott. Your book is very intriguing so far. Love the
Apollonian/Dionysian dialectic. (This explains that dismissive Tom
Lehrer song about folk music.) And as a personal note, Frank Gaspar was
my teacher as well -- at Long Beach State (an inspirational master of
the craft). As for the hippie era, I've got boxes of journals and notes
and am still trying to finish my own novel about What the Hell

I'll be interested to learn more about what the meta 'narrative' is as
I read Further.
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #17 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 4 Apr 07 12:27
Hi Steve.

The opening chapter of my book is called "Ginsberg, Kerouac and
Burroughs: the Vectoring Legacy of the Beats." I fully concur that On
the Road was a hippie bible, and arguably more so than Siddhartha.  One
of the things I point out in this chapter is how so much has been
written about the Beat literary movement, yet virtually nothing
comprehensive about the much large counterculture that followed. For
this reason I honor the Beat literature as foundational, but choose to
plow forward into fresh ground.

As for poetry, that was a whole dimension, like the religious texts I
mentioned, which I chose not to focus on.  I would love to see someone
write The Hippie Verses: A Poetic Perspective on the Counterculture.
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #18 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 4 Apr 07 12:39
Hello Sharon Lynne. Thanks for participating.

I discuss Abbie Hoffman at length in this book, especially in the
chapter on Norman Mailer's "The Armies of the Night."  As I point out
there, Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were master media attention grabbers. 
Steal This Book may have been one of the cleverest, and certainly
longest remembered ploys ever devised by Hoffman.  When I looked at the
actual book, though, it is not narrative, but a handbook on how to be
a hip anarchist just like Abbie.  I couldn't take it seriously as
literature or argue that it belongs in a canon of countercultural
literature.  It belongs in a book called The Great Hippie Shticks: An
Iconoclastic Perspective on the Counterculture.
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #19 of 349: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 4 Apr 07 12:46
Ah, thanks, Scott. I've not yet read your book; am anxious to.

There's so much overlap from the beat movement onto the
counterculture, it's difficult to know where one ends and the next
begins. It has always seemed to me that Jerry Gracia and Robert Hunter
were fundamentally beats; they could also trace their inspirations into
distant reaches of Old American Experience, into the Appalachians and
Nantucket, into the Delta and the Great North Woods. Kesey and
Brautigan seemed like new manifestations of Old West mythology -- yet
seemed something newer, too.  

Perhaps Steve Silberman will come along here with much more
information to add. 
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #20 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 4 Apr 07 12:59
Hi Diane. Welcome!

Frank Gaspar was my mentor for one semester-- the one when I wrote my
full MFA critical paper called "Hippie Narrative: Through the Looking
Glass Shattered." That paper morphed into this book. He had some great

One of Frank's excellent suggestions for writing a novel was to think
of one's "through-line" or "through-story." This was also central to my
examination of Sometimes a Great Notion where Kesey's through-line to
"try to make Hank [Stamper] give up" is the secret to the labyrinthine
structure of this amazing novel.

As for the Apollonian/Dionysian concept, I believe it's the
appropriate archetypal way to comprehend that wild time.  It creates a
different context for how to view the New Left, which I argue was not
insignificant, but not the dominant cultural impetus of this time in

As for Meta-narrative, it was interesting the way writers, especially
Vonnegut and Robbins, used this self-referencing of their own prose as
a literary device.
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #21 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 4 Apr 07 13:10
You describe the eclectic beauty of the Dead perfectly. I agree that
the continuity from the Beat to the hippie era is not always easy to
trace culturally, but in The Hippie Narrative, I try my best to make
some key delineations.  

The response to the Vietnam War and the widespread use of LSD were two
obvious societal shifts. The literature in the counterculture tends to
become more whimsical, less self-serious and the prose is also
decidedly less dythrambic, or frenetic in its pacing.  The peace and
love ethos of the late sixties was also more collectivist, with a
we-can-change-the-world idealism that didn't exist with the Beats.

I also hope Steve Silberman can join our discussion.  He had intended
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #22 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 4 Apr 07 13:24
stevebj: "Kesey and Brautigan seemed like new manifestations of Old
West mythology -- yet seemed something newer, too."

Definitely.  I talk about this in-depth in the chapters on Sometimes a
Great Notion and Trout Fishing in America. I think this hits on why
the West Coast was the heart of the countercultural explosion.
Brautigan makes us look at the pastoral in a whole new way; Kesey's
novels are about man confronting the wilderness of the soul.  

Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest with pioneering grandparents
here, I relate in a visceral way to both Kesey's and Brautigan's
works--though they are radically different from one another in their
style and structure.  Both create profound expressions of manifest
destiny folding back onto itself.  Here at the frontier edge of the
continent with no land left to conquer, the next wilderness for modern
man and woman was the one inside ourselves, especially the frontier of
the mind.   
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #23 of 349: Diane Shifrin (dshif) Wed 4 Apr 07 16:06
Nicely said.

I finished the 'Cuckoo's Nest' chapter. Am I correct in saying that
you see this novel as a transition between more traditional literary
techniques and the countercultural ones to follow? 

I liked your observation about the racism/sexism in the nurse
characters. Though it was in progress in 1970, the women's movement did
not really hit its stride until 1973 or so. There was a gap between
sexual liberation and the raising of most women's consciousness that
had some painful consequences, at least for those of us coming of age
in that sliver of time. 

A book that was quite revealing to me about 'Beat' women was Joyce
Johnson's poignant 'Minor Characters'. I'm not sure that the women's
perspective on the hippie era has yet been captured. 
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #24 of 349: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 4 Apr 07 18:51
In Cuckoo's Nest, I see a traditional plot structure with a narrative
voice that is rendered intermittantly through a surrealistic fog. 
This, I point out, was Kesey's innovation; the unusual point-of-view of
Chief Broom, and this character's change, is what elevates this novel
to its status as fine literature.  

As you move forward in The Hippie Narrative, you will see that
compared to other works such as Trout Fishing in America, Cuckoo's Nest
is, structurally, not highly experimental. In fact, along with Divine
Right's Trip, which also employs surrealistic passages, Cuckoo's Nest
is one of the most conventionally rendered novels of the lot. Also, as
you will see, there is no simple transition from one style or structure
to another, but a broadening of narrative approaches during the

I think it's cool to get your comments/questions as you work through
each chapter.  Many things I bring up do accrete as The Hippie
Narrative progresses.

As I said in an earlier post, there is a feminist trajectory that can
be seen from these works written in the early '60s to those penned in
the '70s.  I agree with your assessment of when the women's movement
hit its stride.

As for the women's perspective on the hippie era not being captured,
there were two women in Frank Gaspar's mentor group working on their
Great American Hippie Novel when I was at Antioch. (I have my own
manuscript crying for an agent, too).  If you get yours out there, we
all can join this new genre of hippie literature that started with
Cuckoo's Nest and all that foggy surrealism. 
inkwell.vue.296 : Scott MacFarlane, "The Hippie Narrative"
permalink #25 of 349: Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 4 Apr 07 19:13
Hey Scott -- I've really been enjoying your book.  Thanks for writing it, 
and for your great contributions to this discussion.

The whole Beat/hippie interface is rich and subtle ground.  After having
been burdened with the whole "King of the Beats" hype, Kerouac was even
more put off by the hippies and self-proclaimed radical revolutionaries,
whom he once accused of "inventing new reasons for spitefulness." Kerouac
remained, in many ways, a blue-collar Catholic jock from a mill town in
Massachusetts who thought it was important to honor your father and
mother; a bunch of hairy Weathermen yelling "OFF THE PIGS!" were not going
to charm him, and his own experiences with psychedelics were hellish. I
agree with you that On the Road, as you write in your book, was the sort
of quintessential Beat book. But I feel like Kerouac's main contribution
to hippie consciousness was his next book, The Dharma Bums, in which he
created the persona of this Zen-balanced peripatetic wilderness mystic
Japhy Ryder (based of course on Gary Snyder), who was prototype of who
many hippies wanted to be. In that book, Kerouac wrote the following,
which I have talked about elsewhere as foreshadowing of hippie/Deadhead
culture:  "Ho!  What we need is a floating zendo, where an old Bodhisattva
can wander from place to place and always be sure to find a spot to sleep
in among friends and cook up mush."

Ginsberg, on the other hand, relished the role of being a kindly 
paterfamilias and de facto guru to the flower children -- he found the 
guys sexy, and in some ways, the hippie movement was a blossoming of some 
of the gnostic impulses of his own early work.  ("Sunflower Sutra" reads 
like a hippie ur-text:  "We're not our skin of grime...")

Anyway, Scott, I'm really enjoying the book.

I'm curious if you have a list in your mind of films that also contributed 
to the hippie narrative, almost in parallel to the books you write about.


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