I’ve been wanting to read this book by Tom Wolfe for years and years – originally based solely on its title – and after years of wanting and searching I finally bit the bullet and bought it myself as a post exam treat. I did manage to stumble upon the Bonfire of the Vanities in a charity shop a few years ago and really enjoyed it, which only sought to further fuel my anticipation for this book, and although I wouldn’t like to describe it as a disappointment it didn’t quite live up to my expectations (which is probably predictable, when I’ve been after it for so long).
The Electric Acid Kool Aid Test follows Ken Kesey (whose novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, I really really enjoyed – along with One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest – but I feel like that’s a given) and the Merry Pranksters as they travel around America in their bus ‘Further’ and experiment with LSD, including Kesey’s fake suicide, his fleeing to Mexico, and eventual arrest for marijuana possession. The book is essentially non fiction, although I think that if it had been fictitious I would have become annoyed at all the outlandish goings on – if Wolfe had made them up it might have been tedious in places but as it was it was more insightful – although I did have to read this book in its entirety in the gym – at no point was I compelled to read it in a situation where I had something better to do.
I don’t really want to be too harsh on this novel because I did have such incredibly high expectations, but I wouldn’t rush into recommending it unless you really have the urge to read such a niche story. I would like to caveat this general tone of negativity by reiterating how good Bonfire of the Vanities was – given the choice I would definite reread the latter instead of this one (although obviously I don’t have time to read either anywhere in the near future…)