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Voices From the Underground, 2 vols.

Volume I: Insider Histories of the Vietnam Era Underground Press Volume II: A Directory of Resources and Sources on the Vietnam Era Underground Press edited by Ken Wachsberger Mica Press (P.O. Box 25544, Tempe, AZ 85285). 608 pp., 128 pp. $74.50, paper (Volume I, $29.50; Volume 11, $45.00).

As the people responsible for the underground press of the 1960s and early 1970s get older--good God! they're all over thirty, and some of them are over fifty--their exploits have passed into legend. But like all good legends, theirs is both less and more than the reality that inspired it. Books and theses have been and will be written, but Voices from the Underground is no academic treatment but rather what the academics call a primary source. It's big (magazine-size pages; two inches thick) and it rambles; some of it's fascinating and some of it's boring. It's uneven--just like the underground press. If you're interested in exploring the reality behind the legend, head straight for Volume II, where you'll find an annotated bibliography and listings of which libraries have copies of what. But Volume I is the one to read, and it's fun. It includes first-person accounts by the perpetrators of the likes of Flamingo Park Gazette, Fifth Estate, Kudzu, Fag Rag, and Hundred Flowers, along with the better-known ones. Peter Jensen of the AUGUR (Eugene, Oregon), for example, recalls thinking that "we were Camus writing for Le Combat. in Nazi-occupied France." And who, after all, other than someone who was there, would call a piece on Great Speckled Bird (Atlanta) "A Fowl in the Vortices of Consciousness"? And who else would tell you how he pied the perfect master? If you don't need a library to remember the underground press, you'll know what you're buying here when we tell you that the pages you expect to find at the beginning of a paperback--full of laudatory blurbs signed by famous names--also include rejection letters for this book's manuscript. One small-press person remarks, "I hesitated to return it to you because I was busy reading it." And a comment by an editor at Pantheon reads, ". . . couldn't put it down ... extraordinary book ... rave rejection."
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Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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