There’s a provocative new novel from bestselling American novelist T.C. Boyle coming your way in April but it’s having its world premiere, so to speak, in Germany this January where Boyle is at this very moment doing a major book tour — in German — as we speak.
The book explores the first scientific and recreational forays into LSD and its mind-altering possibilities. Titled “Outside Looking In,” the novel will take readers back to the 1960s and to the early days of a drug whose effects have reverberated widely throughout Western culture: LSD.
What’s interesting about the publication of this novel is that it has already been translated into German and was published first for Boyle’s legions of fans in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, four months before the book will debut in America. You might wonder why Germany gets first dibs on a new T.C. Boyle novel, long before readers in New York and Los Angeles get a look at the book. Here’s the answer: Boyle is so well-regarded in Germany by his fans there (and literary critics there, too) that while he’s an American novelist writing in English, he’s so loved in Germany and on Twitter by his German fans who tweet to him in California daily in both German and English that in many ways, in some ways, Boyle is also a German novelist. Think about this and take a tab of acid to let it sink in.
Meanwhile, remember these dates: In 1943, LSD was synthesized in Basel. Two decades later, a coterie of graduate students at Harvard were gradually drawn into the inner circle of renowned psychologist and psychedelic drug enthusiast Timothy Leary. Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology Ph.D. student and his wife, Joanie, become entranced by the drug’s possibilities such that their “research” becomes less a matter of clinical trials and academic papers and instead turns into a free-wheeling exploration of mind expansion, group dynamics, and communal living.
So in this ”LSD” novel in 2019, and with ith his trademark humor and pathos, Boyle moves us through the Loneys’ initiation at one of Leary’s parties to his notorious summer seminars in Zihuatanejo until the Loneys’ eventual expulsion from Harvard and their introduction to a communal arrangement of 39 devotees — students, wives, and children — living together in a 64-room mansion and devoting themselves to all kinds of experimentation and questioning.
Some questions to ponder as you wait for this novel to arrive in the mail in April. Is LSD a belief system? Does it allow you to see God? Can the Loneys’ marriage — or any marriage, for that matter — survive the chaotic and sometimes orgiastic use of psychedelic drugs?
Boyle-wise, Boyle-witty and Boyle-stamped, the novel is an engaging and trippy look at the nature of reality, identity, and consciousness.
”Turn on, tune in, drop out,” Timothy Leary intoned in groovy tones of the 1960s. With Boyle’s new novel, we might put it this way in 2019 — especially if you take a look the trippy cover of the German edition — “Turn around, look inside, read the book!”
T.C. Boyle, approaching 70 and with over 25 novels and story collections out in English and 12 foreign languages as well, is set for a stellar year in 2019 with the release of this new novel.