Outside Looking In by T. C. Boyle
eBook review copy; 400 pages
Outside Looking In by T. C. Boyle is a very highly recommended look at early psychedelic experimentation in the 1960's.
LSD was first synthesized
in BaselIn, Switzerland in 1943, as covered in the prelude. The novel
then advances to 1962-1964 and introduces Fitzhugh (Fitz) Loney, a
Ph.D. student at Harvard. When his advisor, Tim, invites Fitz and his
wife, Joanie, to attend a Saturday night research session at his home,
they are nervous, but accept. Tim and his inner circle are taking
psilocybin mushrooms to see if they could be used in a therapeutic
treatment program. Soon, Tim and the group begin to take LSD for
research purposes. Fitz and Joanie are not completely entrenched in the
group at first, but that changes when Tim rents a resort in Zihuatanejo,
Mexico, invites the whole research group to join him, starting the idea
of communal living, and begins to offer summer seminars. Fitz and
Joanie go to Mexico, taking Corey, their teenage son along.
As the research becomes less scientific, Tim loses his position at
Harvard, but rents a sixty-four room mansion in Millbrook, NY, for the
group. There they will practice communal living and offer seminars to
other interested parties. As experimentation and rampant drug usage
ensues, all ideas of academic papers and scientific trials are set
aside. Fitz, who was going to work on his PhD thesis at Millbrook,
instead loses focus, and his family begins to disintegrate.
Outside Looking In is thoroughly engrossing and I was totally
entrenched in the narrative. Even if you know where it is heading, Boyle
has presented a fascinating insight into Leary's perspective through
the viewpoint of Fitz and Joanie as they enter his inner circle. The
writing is excellent in the detailed plot, capturing the times and the
flawed personalities involved without resorting to stereotypical
descriptions. The narrative follows the actions of the characters and
their experiences, while allowing the reader to make deductions about
the ethics or any overarching morality themes.
The character of Fitz is well developed and the reader can clearly
follow the change in him as he moves further into Tim's inner circle and
increases his experimentation. That is not to imply that he is
predictable. He does slowly go through a transition, as does Joanie. No
judgement is made on their integrity or transitions. The narrative
follows the action and the judgements and conclusions are left to the
reader. It is a small slice of a small group of people during an
interesting time in history. This novel captures a time, a juncture in
history, and the implication of the cultural impact to come.
My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.
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