Type Punch Matrix has issued a catalogue with the unusual title of brian cassidy bookseller @. This needs an explanation. Type Punch Matrix is a book dealer founded by a pair of already well-established booksellers, Rebecca Romney and Brian Cassidy. Within the firm, bcb @ tpm is their counterculture department. Therefore, what we have here is a catalogue of material relating to various countercultures, which means this material will be interesting, even if at times a bit odd. Here are a few examples of what you can find.
We begin with the first account of a controlled, personal experimental use of LSD. The book is A Drug-Taker's Notes by R. H. Ward. It was published in 1957, before anyone had even heard of Timothy Leary. Richard Heron Ward took six trips, receiving his doses from a psychiatrist who monitored the results. His results were mixed, some being more enjoyable than others. It all scared him. He admonishes the young that there are no shortcuts to enlightenment, advice the young clearly ignored in the 60s, often to their detriment. Leary never figured that out. Item 15. Priced at $500.
However, if you are going to... This next item is a practical guide for taking LSD – Session Games People Play: A Manual for the Use of LSD, published in 1967. The author is Lisa Bieberman, a disciple of Leary and Alpert (Ram Dass). Bieberman was a Radcliffe grad drawn to Leary's Harvard Project, who founded the Psychedelic Information Center. She later originated the Farmington Prophecy, that the town of Farmington, Maine would be transformed to the New Jerusalem on June 6, 2006, after which death and illness would cease within its borders. TPM notes of her prediction, “Regrettably, this did not come to pass.” I'm sure none of this had anything to do with her use of LSD. Item 22. $500.
Here is a book that is super-avant Avant-garde. The title is Mémoires, by Guy-Ernest Debord and Asger Jones, published in 1959. It is hard to describe, images of snippets of text, photographs, and comics. Splotches of color overlay some of the images. There is no plot, no beginning-middle-end. It is a jumble by two of the founders of Situationist International, a group of avant-garde artists, political radicals, and various revolutionary types. For all the strangeness, the strangest, and perhaps (hopefully) represents their still having a sense of humor, is the cover. It is made of sandpaper. TPM says it is “designed to leave its mark on every other book it touches, and on your fingertips.” Don't place this one between any books you care about. Item 8. $5,000.
I wouldn't call this next item Avant-garde. Rear guard would be more like it. It is ugly, really ugly. Item 26 is an archive of the Tobacco Institute's lobbying material circa 1972-1990. It contains the papers of Fred Panzer, a White House Aid specializing in polling during the Lyndon Johnson administration. He followed that up a few years later by serving as Vice-President of the Tobacco Institute. It was there that he devoted his time to obfuscating, hiding, misleading and whatever else he could do to convince people that the dangers of tobacco smoking were exaggerated and likely non-existent. From this archive, it is clear that Panzer's aim was to convince people of what was in the financial best interests of the drug's producers without any sign of believing the claims one way or the other, or even caring. He just wanted to sow doubt in the report of the Surgeon General and scientists with little regard for the human consequences. The archive includes Panzer's most notable document, the so-called Roper Proposal, which details his strategy to overcome the effect of scientific studies. He wanted to move beyond the then-current “holding strategy” of “creating doubt about the health charge without actually denying it, advocating the public's right to smoke, without actually urging them to take up the practice,” and encouraging scientific research, but that would never bring about a resolution any more than it had in the past. Instead, he wanted to move to a “victory” strategy. His argument was either to convince people that those who smoke do so because it is part of their constitutional makeup, or that lots of other things may be responsible for illnesses blamed on cigarettes, such as air pollution, viruses, food additives, occupational hazards and stress. The Institute chose the latter approach. There is lots more great stuff like this, such as phrasing the issue as one of individual liberty versus “do-good Big Brotherism.” That sounds like today's debate over wearing masks, individual liberty trumping not killing your family and neighbors. Besides, how can you smoke when wearing a mask? $8,000.
Here is another sort of counterculture, a work of fiction and thankfully so as this is a jarring book. We expect terrible things of adults (take, for example, Fred Panzer), but children? You are probably familiar with this children's classic, Lord of the Flies. A group of English schoolboys are stranded on a deserted island with no adult supervision. Initially, they break down into reasonable community roles, but as time goes on, they just breakdown. One group becomes authoritarian and fascinated with violence while the other holds to decent, humane behavior towards others. You can guess which one wins out. As their rescuer says at the end, “I should have thought that a pack of British boys would have been able to put up a better show than that.” Rest in peace, Piggy. Item 95. $6,000.