Review from JOMP

The latest issue issue of JOMP features an essay by Rich Dengrove about the Sixties counterculture and its effect on his life, entitled “The Hippies”. He credits my short story mini-collection, Through Their Strange Hours, with inspiring the essay and begins it with a review of the stories. I’m reprinting that portion of the essay below:

THE HIPPIES

I recently read a book by a Kent McDaniel, Through Their Strange Hours (2013). It is a collection of tales; and three out of four of them concern The Hippies. Kent, I suspect, lived through the Hippy Era. So did I. It is true that he lived in Illinois and I lived it in Massacchusetts. Still, while, in Boston, the atmosphere was more Liberal and the Vietnam war less popular, I doubt that what went on in our brains differed that much.

One of Kent’s stories showed this in the youth politics of the era, “Honoring Mike.” The Hippy protagonist had quite a different way of honoring a dead Vietnam soldier, Mike, than his evangelistic church or the then patriotic media.

While the Church and the media wished to celebrate Mike as a great patriot, his Hippy friend wished to celebrate him as a good guy who had gotten drafted and been forced to serve in a conflict that got him killed. In fact, so strong did the Hippy disagree with the establishment, he was willing to voice his disapproval at the funeral.

I doubt the views of me or my friends in Boston would have differed all that much, although the media there weren’t apt to cover the funerals of the Vietnam War dead.

Like the other three stories, it showed the anomie that had raised its head among us. To be precise, the tale concerns one aspect of it, Messianic winds that were blowing. The opposition to the Vietnam War constituted more than a political disagreement.

In his other tales about the Hippy era, Kent shows a different aspect of this anomie: how many young people saw life as a purposeless series of relationships, drugs, and time to kill.

His most anomic tale was “Acid Casualties.” The landscape was dotted with lots of purposelessness, drug taking, LSD and marijuana, and relationships not much longer than one night stands. This culminated in a total irresponsibility which killed some cats.

The other story, and the one that gave Kent’s book his title was “Through Their Strange Hours.” Unlike “Acid Casualties,” this tale possesses a history and looks to the future. Not, unfortunately, too optimistically. The protagonist descends into drugs and purposelessness. As he does, his girlfriend leaves him.

Although he had beaten her before, she stayed with him. I gather the reason was he had prospects. He wrote, aiming at becoming an author, for instance. Thus while she could stand a certain amount of abuse, one thing she could not abide was his slide downhill.

These tales brought back memories that changed my way of thinking about Hippies. Previously, I had remembered them as more intellectual. However, with my new memories, I had to admit the wacky movements and the play of ideas occurred on the fringes. Instead, living day to day, taking drugs, and flitting from ‘friend’ to ‘friend’ took center stage.

That life, Kent caught.

He caught it so well. I am not even going to give my usual criticism, that the stories meandered. Usually, stories that meander annoy me. This time I didn’t mind because meandering fit the Hippy way of life as I remembered it.

 

Rich Dengrove, who wrote the essay from which the above was excerpted, is a librarian by trade,  a lover of ideas, and long time fan of science fiction & fantasy fiction. He publishes several zines, among them the always intriguing JOMP (Journal of Mind Pollution). You can email him at richd22426@aol.com

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About kentmcdanielwrites

Writer and musician.

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