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The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived, Uncovered

When your publisher sends you an email with the early designs for your cover, that manuscript you’ve been sweating over for months or years suddenly becomes a book, something that will one day, and for years to come, look out at you from a bookshelf, or a book store, or an Amazon listing, becoming a permanent part of who you are, almost like a snapshot of a child. In some ways, it’s an even more exciting moment than when the first copies arrive in a box at your door — because by then you already know what it will look like. Seeing a cover design for the first time is a revelation. Everything after that is just confirmation.

 

 

 

A Course in Miracles

Jon Berry of the New College program at the University of Alabama is using Acid Test to teach the history of psychedelic therapy to some very engaged students. Here’s the course listing:

NEW 490 – 320 Psychedelics: From Stoned Ape to the FDA (CRN 13341) Spring 2016—Jonathan G. Berry—Tuesdays 7:00–9:50 pm—Lloyd 319 Course Description and Objectives This course will look at the history of psychedelic substances and plants beginning with theories of their earliest protohuman usage to the current FDA approved psychotherapeutic studies. As these substances continue to increase in both sanctioned and unsanctioned use, it is important that we educate ourselves about their role in the development of human language, consciousness, and culture as well as their potential to heal when used in responsible clinical settings. Special attention will be paid to the misuse of these substances during the revolution of the 1960s and their continued misuse in a variety of settings. The question of responsible clinical and religious use of a variety of psychedelic compounds and plants will also be discussed. Learning Outcomes An understanding of 1) the history of psychedelic substances and plants, 2) their possible place in human evolution and the development of human language, 3) their role in early shamanic cultures and the development of religious and spiritual systems, 4) the decline of their use with the growth of large cultural centers and mass religious movements, and 5) their resurgence in the past century in social, artistic, and spiritual movements, and finally their psychotherapeutic usages. There are no prerequisites for this course. This is a New College seminar. New College seminars are highly interactive courses that enable students to critically engage content in responsible ways. Each seminar is designed to explore interdisciplinary approaches to a particular issue, theme, or problem. All New College seminars include the following: • Student-led discussion • A research task • Meaningful and active in-class engagement with course materials • A range of learning activities • Multiple forms of evaluation and assessment • Oral and writing communication • Complex and critical thinking opportunities • Reading and writing as essential components of the class Instructor Information Jonathan G. Berry 224 McMillan 205-239-7016 (text or call) ● [email protected] Office Hours: Wednesday afternoons 4:00 to 6:00. Please contact me to confirm availability. I’m also available by appointment. Required Text for the Course Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal.

Where Book Ideas Come From

I’m currently engaging in that ritual of publishing, filling out the “Author Questionnaire” my publisher’s marketing department seeks for my upcoming book The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived — an essentially hopeful act imagining all the vast audiences who theoretically will run on book stores and internet retail sites to purchase multiple copies, and all the media who will devote yards of type and gigabytes of content to cover it. Here I’ll share just  one of the 53 items on the questionnaire (I live to spell this word) and my response to it:

  1.  31. Please write a paragraph or two on how you came to write this book — including any interesting or newsworthy anecdotes about researching it, writing it, or getting it published.

Until two years ago, I had spent my entire life dismissing, ignoring, or denying my mother’s attempts to impress on me the significance of her father. His many books on my bookshelf went unread. The boxes and boxes of photos and letters my mother kept for decades were felt only as dead weight. When my mother died, if it hadn’t been for my sister’s stubborn insistence, they all would have been headed to the incinerator. For 17 years, I have lived within 25 miles of a repository of 50,000 items consisting of many hundreds of thousands of pages documenting every aspect of my grandfather’s life in shockingly intimate detail, and yet it never occurred to me it might be interesting to look into those 148 boxes sitting in federal storage space in the Library of Congress. As I neared the age of 60, with old age and death peeking ominously over the horizon, I began to wonder increasingly about my grandfather, and his influence on my life and career. Again and again questions formed in my mind, only to butt up against the reality that all those who could have so easily answered them were gone, and that the knowledge itself was vanishing from the face of the earth. I knew that many, if not most people face that same sad irony at some point in their lives. And then the bulb lit in my mind: I had a unique advantage, the mountain of material that would answer all my questions, and many more I never could have imagined.

Ironically, after two years of intensive research and reading in the world’s greatest library, of going through all those boxes my sister had clung to after our mother’s death, just as I was finishing the manuscript for the book, I made one final discovery that would shine a unique light on all that I had learned – in the unlit far corner of my own basement closet.

The First News Coverage of The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived

I guess I’ll actually have to write it now.

 

Thanks to this nice little piece in the Webster City Daily Freeman-Journal.

A Small Town In My Mind

Effie, Virginia and Mack Kantor, ca 1917 Webster City

As I work on a book about exploring the life and career of my grandfather, I’ll be following in his footsteps in a more concrete way, by returning to his childhood home, which was so important in his life and work, and doing exactly what he did there on many occasions: talking about his life and the pursuit of a career in writing. I’ll be doing a series of talks in Webster City Iowa April 23-25.

Speaking In Boston

I will be speaking at Northeastern University in Boston, Friday April 3 beginning at 7 p.m. This is open to the public, and includes other speakers on the subject of psychedelic medicine as well. If you are in the Boston area, please stop in.

Bugged By the Post Hunt? You Weren’t Alone

These bugs and this website played a key role in 8th annual Post Hunt, dreamed up by Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and myself. Explanation to come. Meanwhile ….

 

This was the scene on a sweltering late May Sunday afternoon, blazing sun  instead of the previously forecast torrential rain. We’ll take it.

The Post news story about the event is here.

An explanation of the puzzles, and how the bugs fit in, can be found here.

Dino Doo Doo

The Daily Beast just posted this ridiculously hyped story about dinosaurs “tripping on LSD.” http://www.thedailybeast.com/…/did-dinosaurs-drop-prehistor…
Not to be harsh, but what morons! The research shows ergot fungus in dinosaur remains. Ergot fungus is NOT LSD. It is a deadly rye toxin that killed hundreds of thousands in the Middle Ages. Lysergic Acid is one of many active components in the fungus, and must be extracted, then combined with diethylamide, an extract of ammonia, to make LSD. So the dinos were not “tripping,” though they may have been tripping and falling… down dead.

Old Souls Made New Again

I learned a valuable thing about Google search I should have known long ago: You can limit your search for whatever search terms so that you only see recent posts. Using this method, I found  a review of Old Souls (published way back in 1999) that I’d never seen before. It was probably the most thorough and thoughtful review I’ve ever seen of that book. Here’s the link.

Finding Chandra Is the New (Old) “Serial”

Huffington Post has directed addicts of the true-life crime mystery series “Serial” to some books that can take the edge of their jones, now that “Serial” is over, and that list includes Finding Chandra, by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz, which was my first book editing project after leaving the Post.