Otto's Books

Otto's Books

Friday, August 15, 2014

Memoirs of a Drugged-Up, Sex-Crazed Yippie

Kansas in the late 1970's was so different from today; the Sunflower State might as well have been located in Holland.

Remember what it was like to share drugs with close friends and complete strangers? Remember when casual sex was so casual you didn't even know your partners name? Remember when the political climate of Kansas came down squarely on the side of tolerance? Remember when your personal philosophy of life was defined by rock lyrics and not a mission statement?

You don't?

Well, Steve Otto does.

In his latest semi-fictional novel, Memoirs Of A Drugged-Up, Sex Crazed Yippie (Authorhouse Press/2005), Otto excavates 1970's counterculture like an archeologist loving dusting off a Mastodon tusk. In a brisk 349 pages, Otto gives us a lucid look at a Kansas few people remember --- or can't remember due to a plentiful supply of "controlled substances" that were constantly and cheaply available. Characters romp through Wichita, Lawrence and even Sedalia Missouri when a cheap thrill was worth what you paid for it and pleasure was just the flipside of danger.

But to dismiss this book as just another nostalgic stoner reminiscing about the last days of the counter-culture would be a major mistake. Although there is a certain "back-in-the-day" wistfulness about the time before political correctness was a mantra, Otto tempers his dreamy history lesson with brutal honesty.

The narrator of the story --- a composite of just about every old druggie you ever met --- may graphically describe the bliss of mainlining MDA, he also reminds us that brief moment of pleasure most often occurred in a squalid apartment at broken kitchen table next to sink full of dirty dishes.

Like all good storytellers, Otto takes the reader places they've never been before. Like William Burroughs and Charles Bukowsky, Otto sometimes takes you to places you've never really wanted to visit. Yet, Otto makes it worth the trip by including generous portions of political discourse, Cyrenaic philosophy, post-adolescent lust and near-suicidal thrill seeking to keep the narrative moving along like a junkie careening through a police roadblock.

Otto's work is always provocative and this book will undoubtedly draw the wrath of both solid conservatives and neo-feminists. Otto's characters never mask their contempt for the right-wing agenda and Otto's narrator never hides his obsession with female anatomy. However, criticizing Memoirs because it baits conservatives and objectifies women is missing the point. Filtering 1970's Kansas counterculture through the sensibilities of a naive middle-class, catholic school educated, twenty-something is no easy trick but Otto mostly pulls it off. He has a good ear for times-past and tries --- often successfully --- to make his prose read like it would have been written by someone experiencing these situations 30 years ago. Trying to be simultaneously innovative, entertaining and honest is a juggling act on a unicycle, but Otto is generally at his best when everything's up-in-the-air and he's peddling frantically. When the narrator's budding Marxist politics and his discussions with Iranian nationalists clash with his dawning awareness that Kansas politics has taken a sharp turn to the right, Otto makes it work.

Is Otto's look into the rear-view mirror a true reflection on the 70's, or do the objects simply appear bigger than they were? Ultimately, it doesn't matter. Memoirs resonates with characters buckling under the weight of the America Dream with redemption harder to find than next snort of Cocaine.

I Am Pol Pot (ប៉ុល ពត)

Few dictators have the terrible reputation as Pol Pot the leader of Democratic Kampuchea (present day Cambodia). But “I Am Pol Pot” by Steve Otto is a serious attempt to look inside the circle of the rulers of Democratic Kampuchea. The entire world realizes that his government was a monumental disaster with about a million deaths resulting from his misrule. But this book gives the reader a chance to see what the Democratic Party of Kampuchea thought they were doing and how they believed they could create the most advanced communist society in the modern world back in the 1970s.

Eight of nine people, who bought this book from Barns & Noble, gave it five stars, while the other one gave it four stars. This book is among the best for understanding the Pol Pot years.

Barns& Noble offer this book in e-book form, while Amazon offers it in paperback.

For anyone interested in the history of Cambodia, this book is a must.


Can You Pass The Acid Test?


The "acid test" was a name for large concerts, with groups such as the Grateful Dead, where free LSD (then legal) was available for those in attendance. The title of this book comes from a flyer advertising one such event. But the outbreak of LSD and marijuana in the 1960s was not the beginning of the drug counterculture as we know it today. This book presents examples of drug use and sex-promoting cliques around music, magazines, newspapers, clothing and other forms of culture that countered the established norms and often brought about the government's wrath. This book is a comprehensive look at these counterculture trends from the 1990s back through the late 1800s. Here is a comprehensive reference book to songs, publications and objects of art that reflected the last century's countercultures, as well as government and mainstream press attempts to censor them.

At Barnes & Noble.