History Reading Tonight
posted by February 21 at 11:37 AMon
Me, at a bar, finally finishing (in that great way where I don’t want to finish, but can’t resist finising) this fantastic 600-page book on the Manson Family.
The book, simply titled The Family, came out in 1971, a few years before Vincent Bugliosi’s richly-reported classic Helter Skelter.
The Family is equally, if not even more thoroughly reported than Bugliosi’s masterpiece, and is written in a quietly snide, even comical, counterculture prose.
The author, Ed Sanders, was a key player in the burgeoning beat-into-hippie underground in the early and mid 1960s. He was in the Dadaist Greenwich Village folk-rock group The Fugs, and after founding Fuck You: A Journal of the Arts in 1962, he became involved in the underground press movement starring the East Village Other and the L.A. Free Press—precursors and templates for today’s alt weekly industry. Voila L’Etranger!
His writing is in the neighborhood of Lester Bangs and Hunter S. Thompson—only calmer, quieter, and, I think, smarter. (I’d never heard of Sanders until I picked up this book.)
The octane for Sanders’s book comes from his obvious angst over the fact that the Manson Family was emerging—when he wrote the book—as a de facto indictment of Sanders’s revolutionary generation. Bummer, man. And boy does Sanders use some acidic prose to cut Manson up.
Sanders, again, a freak at the time, had complete access to the Family, and hangs out with them on several occasions, having dinner with them at the infamous Spahn Ranch, getting propositioned by the weirdo Manson girls, and driving around with member-murderer Steve Grogan.
Anyway, it’s a great book, sort of an informal version of Bugliosi’s book (with equally impressive reporting). Highly recommended, if you want to get creeped out.