"Books That Helped Make the Age of Aquarius."
By Michael Dirda.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Post, July 23, 1989, in the "Book World" section, p. x10.

THE TIMES they have a-changed. The '60s--flower power, love beads, Woodstock and the March on Washington--have become only memories that haunt respectable suburbanites as they sweat out traffic jams on the Beltway, mow the grass on Saturday mornings, or cart kids from soccer practice to play rehearsal. Occasionally though, it's good to escape--if only through reading--back to that distant springtime when all the world seemed young. Here are a few of the American books that helped make the Age of Aquarius:

Growing Up Absurd, by Paul Goodman (1960).
This all-out attack on American materialism by a poet and radical social critic encouraged the idealistic young to "drop out."

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (1961).
The grim-humored classic--starring Yossarian, Nately, Major Major and a dozen others--about the absurdities of war. Check out the full definition of its now-famous title.

Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein (1961).
When Valentine Michael Smith returns to earth, after growing up on Mars, he becomes a cult-messiah espousing libertarian views--and later a model that inspired Charles Manson.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey (1962).
More than a star vehicle for Jack Nicholson, this novel became an anthem for the survival of the human spirit against impossible odds.

The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan (1963).
The manifesto of the American feminist movement: a stunning critique of the culture made by men.

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin (1963).
Go tell it on the mountain: the essays that helped galvanize a generation into fighting for social justice.

V., by Thomas Pynchon (1963).
Benny Profane searches for the mysterious woman V. in the legendary first book of quite possibly the greatest (and probably least read) American novelist of our time. Look for the long-awaited Vineland early next year.

Candy, by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg (1964).
"Oh, Daddy!" Sex can be funny: this story of the irrepressible and irresistible Candy sends up lecherous professors, randy gynecologists, phoney gurus and much more.

One-Dimensional Man, by Herbert Marcuse (1964).
The masterwork of the Marxist-Freudian thinker who inspired the student revolutionists of 1968. Don't get co-opted.

Understanding Media, by Marshall McLuhan (1964).
The influence of technology on history, by the guru of the global village, the pundit of hot and cool.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965).
A spell-binding account of growing up black in post-war America. See also the equally powerful Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver (1968).

Ariel, by Sylvia Plath (1966).
Lady Lazarus herself, the poet who practiced dying until she got it right--and in the process created some of the darkest and best poems of her time.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, by Richard Fariņa (1966).
Married to Joan Baez's sister, the best friend of Thomas Pynchon, dead in his early 20s in a motorcycle accident, Fariņa embodied an era and his autobiographical novel recounts his coming of age.

The Armies of the Night, by Norman Mailer (1968).
The novel as history, history as a novel: Aquarius' brilliant (and egocentric) account of the March on Washington.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe (1968).
Forget The Bonfire of the Vanities and rediscover the hip "new journalist" who chronicled the escapades of Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and all the other boys on the bus.

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, by Carlos Castaneda (1968).
A young American journeys to Mexico to learn the secrets of life and peyote: Spiritual education was never like this before.

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1969).
The book that made Vonnegut a household name: Billy Pilgrim, haunted by the fire-bombing of Dresden, finds happiness in a sexual idyll on another planet--after being kidnapped by the all-powerful Tralfalmadorians.

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