Free love, living off the bounty of nature, smile on your brother. These are the notions brought to mind when we think of the denizens of the Summer of Love: the merry, flamboyant, free-wheeling, easy-going hippies. Popular culture has taught us that the hippies achieved many of the Utopian goals of togetherness and brotherhood they preached, even if only for a short time.
Drop City by T.C. Boyle scours the shine off these images, and probes deeper into the inner workings of the culture and its inhabitants.
Boyle's eloquent narrative style stitches itself in and out of the perceptions, thoughts, and emotions of his cast, developing a tense and realistic storyline. Departing from the myths and legends of the time, Boyle vividly depicts the external and internal conflicts that arise from the culture shock of "dropping out," choosing the lifestyle of a California hippie commune.
Boyle prepares us for what is to come, giving us a peek into the lifestyle, mindset, and motivations of a genuine Alaskan frontiersman. He too seeks the freedom from the plastic world, and to live off the bounty of nature, however, his practical experience in the harsh wilds, along with some very different views of interpersonal conduct, survival, and freedom itself, foreshadow some of the difficulties that arise when Drop City North is founded just a few miles upstream of his cabin.
So sprinkle a little reality on your utopia, and give Drop City a read. Perhaps the hippies can learn something by it for the next go-round.