Some useful articles providing background to this month's Reading group choice
Has Huxley busted open the doors for you? Here's a few more portals to step through:
The obvious place to start is with the source of the phrase "The Doors Of Perception" – Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell. If you're feeling skint there's a pretty nice online version with a few pictures – but, of course, you can't beat the book.
Meanwhile, if you haven't already, you must also read Brave New World – JG Ballard says it's more prophetic than 1984 and few would argue that its influence is huge. Huxley's anti-utopia also displays plenty of the obsessions that would lead him to The Doors Of Perception – particularly in the form of the drug Soma.
It's also well worth looking at Island – a late novel marking the culmination of Huxley's philosophical and psychotropic investigations.
Acid Dreams by Martin A Lee gives a good idea of the influence of Huxley's ideas. It's a social history of LSD, the 1960s counterculture and the CIA's strange foray into psychedelic experimentation.
There's also Storming Heaven: LSD And The American Dream by Jay Stevens, another history of LSD following the drug from Albert Hofman's laboratory to Timothy Leary's college to Ken Kesey's bus and then across the world.
Meanwhile, the key contemporary account of the 1960s acid explosion must be Thomas Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, where the man in the white suit follows Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters on a very unusual bus trip … although Hunter S Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas is far more fun.
For a more sober account, try LSD – My Problem Child by Albert Hofmann, in which the great bicycling chemist discusses his difficult legacy. Then there's also PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story, by Alexander Shulgin. Shulgin takes Huxley's willingness to dose himself on experimental chemicals to new heights in a moving, fascinating, scientifically rigorous and frequently terrifying guide to all things Phenethylamine.
Moving back to the man himself, This Timeless Moment – A Personal View of Aldous Huxley by Laura Huxley is fascinating. Here, Huxley's second wife details her marriage to the writer from 1948 to 1963, explaining and defending his experiments with drugs and his belief that psychology could help his failing eyesight.
You can also get a flavour of Laura Huxley's relationship with her husband in this touching account of Huxley's final moments, and his famous last LSD trip, minutes after JFK was shot. "He had taken this moksha medicine in which he believed. He was doing what he had written in Island and I had the feeling that he was interested and relieved and quiet."
Huxley, had a lovely, very posh voice, as evidenced by this BBC interview from 1958 – which is also notable for, among other things, Huxley's claim to be an essayist who happens to write novels and a discussion of Brave New World and LSD.
And here's an interesting essay on Huxley and mescalin in The Reader.
Finally, I find it impossible to to resist posting this amusing video of soldiers taking LSD ("One hour and 10 minutes after taking the drug, with one man climbing a tree to feed the birds, the troop commander gave up … ")
Anything else we should be looking at? Or any books we should hunt out? Please post suggestions in the comments below …o
Picture Caption Detail from Life magazine cover focusing on 'LSD Art' from 1966. Photograph: Yale Joel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 17 January 2012