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Second ReadWriters Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage$
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The Staff of the Columbia Journalism Review and James Marcus

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231159319

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231159319.001.0001

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Tom Wolfe’s

Tom Wolfe’s

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

(p.60) Tom Wolfe’s
Second Read

Jack Schafer

Columbia University Press

This essay reviews the book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe. Published in 1968, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a nonfiction work that chronicles the experiences of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, who traveled across the country in a colorfully painted school bus named Furthur. Wolfe takes his readers directly into the heads of his subjects, when necessary, to describe three years of Prankster adventures in consciousness along the California coast, across the country in Furthur, down to Mexico, where Kesey skedaddled to escape prosecution for possession of marijuana, and back to San Francisco. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test remains the best account—fictional or non, in print or on film—of the genesis of the 1960s hipster subculture. Kesey and the Pranksters didn't single-handedly invent psychedelic culture, and they weren't the only LSD proselytizers in the mid-1960s. But they swung the big broom, sweeping everything into their acid gospel—trash and kitsch, consumer culture, spray paint, electronics, daredevilry, and practical jokes—and it was their version that rose to dominance.

Keywords:   psychedelic culture, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Merry Pranksters, school bus, Furthur, marijuana, hipster subculture, LSD

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