At the dark end of the 1960s, a young poet is launched on a bizarre odyssey that leads him from the ill-fated gathering of rock-and-roll tribes at Altamont through San Francisco City Prison to various psychiatric hospitals up and down California in search of his role in the Revolution. An anti-nostalgic, at times terrifying, often comical exploration of a period largely misremembered in the collective imagination, this picaresque narrative is a vivid evocation of a tumultuous moment in American cultural history, an intimate account of acute psychosis, and an archetypal tale of artistic initiation.

Thoughts on The Mental Traveler:

In The Mental Traveler Kessler writes an archetypal hero's journey in the tradition of Don Quixote, God's valiant but deluded knight, who defied the authority of church and state as he traveled on his self-proclaimed holy quest to save the world. It's also a "road" novel whose character, along with Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Kerouac's Dean Moriarty, travels America in search of his own identity. Stephen's quest satisfyingly delivers the reader to the back of the book, where a second portrait of Kessler today smiles beatifically above the Author's Biography. In the biography, the author reveals that an "acute psychotic episode in 1970" led him to abandon his academic career to pursue writing full-time.

Franz Kafka meets Allen Ginsberg in Stephen Kessler's electrochemically charged novel of the end of the 1960s. Essential reading for anyone who wonders how this generations most interesting poets and maniacs got that way.

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