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BOOKS | REVIEWS: Outside Looking In

BOOKS | REVIEWS: Outside Looking In

April 13th, 2019 by Star Tribune (Minneapolis) in Features
"Outside Looking In" by T.C. Boyle; Ecco (385 pages, $27.99). (HarperCollins Publishers/TNS)

Outside Looking In by T.C. Boyle; Ecco (385 pages, $27.99)


A family opts to give up everything to move into Timothy Leary's LSD-taking commune: What could possibly go wrong? "Everything" is the obvious answer, and it does in Boyle's fact-inspired novel that, after a brief prelude about the first synthesizing of LSD in Switzerland, takes place in the early '60s as the prophet of acid lures Harvard colleagues into his experiment in consciousness-raising and group dynamics.

It's a "Great Gatsby" story, really, with Leary as the remote but charismatic figure who carelessly draws others into his orbit and the Loney family—doctoral candidate Fitz, librarian wife Joanie and son Corey—as Nick Carraway, dazzled by the possibilities that will doom then. Boyle's timing is good, with microdosing still a hot topic. But, since his is a "Gatsby" story, there's only one way this can go. And, with his numerous, dull attempts to visualize the LSD trips that Michael Pollan has recently told us are indescribable and his near-total lack of interest in anything about women except their physical appearances, Boyle hasn't figured out how to make these dopes' grim journey compelling.

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