Outside Looking In: A Novel (Hardcover)

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TC Boyle has picked an awfully big fish to shoot in this barrel. He doesn't miss. When the monochrome 50s of the bland leading the bland gave way to the iridescent 60s, that transformation was ushered in by the psychedelic experiments of Timothy Leary at Harvard. Hallucinogenic drugs, such as psilocybin and LSD, were seen as potentially powerful tools for helping psychologically damaged people. Direct participation of grad students and professors was encouraged to breakdown any barriers between subject and clinician. This model inevitably wandered far astray from any objective standard of psychological study and mushroomed quickly into a more hedonistic pursuit of drug use for its own sake. Voila! The Sixties were in full flower. Leary had morphed from charismatic college professor into some sort of combination shaman and guru. Boyle is a master at skewering pretentious people who insist that their mundane doings are actually shot-through with profound meaning and exposing the emperor, however technicolor he insists his clothes to be, as quite naked.

— Conrad Silverberg


A provocative new novel from bestselling author T.C. Boyle exploring the first scientific and recreational forays into LSD and its mind-altering possibilities

In this stirring and insightful novel, T.C. Boyle takes us back to the 1960s and to the early days of a drug whose effects have reverberated widely throughout our culture: LSD.

In 1943, LSD is synthesized in Basel. Two decades later, a coterie of grad students at Harvard are 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. With 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 thirty devotees—students, wives, and children—living together in a sixty-four room mansion and devoting themselves to all kinds of experimentation and questioning.

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? Wry, witty, and wise, Outside Looking In is an ideal subject for this American master, and highlights Boyle’s acrobatic prose, detailed plots, and big ideas. It’s an utterly engaging and occasionally trippy look at the nature of reality, identity, and consciousness, as well as our seemingly infinite capacities for creativity, re-invention, and self-discovery.

About the Author

T.C. Boyle has published fourteen novels and ten collections of short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his novel World’s End, and the Prix Médicis étranger for The Tortilla Curtain in 1995, as well as the 2014 Henry David Thoreau award for excellence in nature writing. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California and lives in Santa Barbara.

Praise For…

“Spellbinding...Boyle’s latest work of countercultural, biographical fiction will lure his devotees and the newly curious alike.”

"He writes with a youthful and sustained energy that parallels the zeal of his dreamers, and that ultimately attenuates their failures. There are few writers who seem more American."
New York Times Book Review

“This is a superbly paced novel that manages to feel simultaneously suspenseful and inevitable.”
Washington Post

“Few novelists have benefited more from the freedom unleashed by the psychedelic revolution than the prolific Boyle, . . . but here he shows a buttoned-down control over his material, a deadpan innocence in the face of seismic changes to come. . . . Boyle evokes a cultural flashpoint with implications that transcend acid flashbacks.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Boyle takes us deep inside the lives of [Timothy] Leary and his convention-bashing acolytes, offering a brisk read that provides much food for thought. Boyle fans will enjoy.”
Library Journal (starred review)

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062882981
ISBN-10: 0062882988
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Pages: 400
Language: English