Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut, Paul Krassner, 389 pgs, Soft Skull Press, softskull.com, US $18.95
Paul Krassner is the Where’s Waldo of counterculture, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Name a key moment in 1960s counterculture and Krassner was there. Chicago Democratic Convention? Check. Woodstock? Check. In addition to these and many other orgies, happenings, be-ins and freakouts, Krassner co- founded the Yippies, edited Lenny Bruce’s autobiography, was a member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and was buddies with Abbie Hoffman.
Perhaps Krassner’s biggest claim to fame, though, is as editor and publisher of the 1950s-1960s satirical magazine The Realist, where in an article entitled “The Parts Left Out Of The Kennedy Book” he oversaw one of the darkest jokes ever to see print: LBJ having, ahem, intimate relations with the bullet wounds in JFK’s throat.
Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut (the title comes from a description of Krassner in his FBI file) is Krassner’s life story, and as you would guess from reading the above, it’s pretty far out. The book’s style is a bit meandering, deliberately so, as Krassner follows his memories. It’s a bit like a cool older uncle telling you stories about his crazy misspent (or in this case, well spent) youth.
Krassner’s not afraid to plumb the depths, either. One section of the book unflinchingly details a psychotic break brought on by too much LSD, the Manson Family and the JFK assassination.
Happily, he recovered from his psychosis and survived the ’60s. He is now a grandfather, quietly enjoying family life — but as this book demonstrates, just under this tranquil surface, Krassner’s biting wit still circles like a shark. (AG Pasquella)