Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cowboy Psychedelica – Kesey & the Superhero Mythos

The current fantasy… yes... just Kesey and a couple of Merry Pranksters left on the Bus... a tape drones on… in a weird voice, full of Ouija-whammy: 

“the blissful counterstroke ... a considerable new message ... a considerable new message... the current fantasy.” 

Fantasy is a word Kesey has taken to using more and more, for all sorts of plans, ventures, world views and ambitions… it is a good word… it is ironic… and it isn't. It takes a rare kind... Because always comes the moment when it's time to take the Prankster circus further on toward Edge City. And always at that point some good souls are startled… Hey, wait! 

Kesey can remember them all, people who thought he was great so long as his fantasy coincided with theirs. But every time he pushed on further… and he always pushed on further… they became confused and resentful… The tape winds on: 

“the blissful counterstroke... through workhorse and intercourse... the blood that was available to him in intercourse... made us believe he was in the apple sauce for twenty years.” 

Only lucky dogs and Merry Pranksters can understand this supersonic warble! Most likely… the blissful counterstroke… The current fantasy… but how to tell them?

About such arcane little matters as Captain Marvel and The Flash ... and The Life… and the very Superkids... a considerable new message . . . the blissful counter-stroke?

But of course! The feeling… out here at night, free, with the motor running and the adrenaline flowing, cruising in the neon glories of the new American night. It was very Heaven to be the first wave of the most extraordinary kids in the history of the world… only 15, 16, 17 years old… dressed in the haute couture of pink Oxford shirts, sharp pants, snaky half-inch belts, fast shoes—with all this Straight-6 and V-8 power underneath and all this neon glamour overhead, which somehow tied in with the technological super-heroics of the jet, TV, atomic subs, ultra-sonics… Postwar American suburbs… glorious world!

And the hell with the intellectual bad-mouthers of America's tailfin civilization... they couldn't know what it was like or else they had it cultivated out of them… the feeling… to be very Superkids! The world's first generation of the little devils… feeling immune, beyond calamity. One's parents remembered the sloughing common order, War & Depression. But Superkids knew only the emotional surge of the great payoff, when nothing was common any longer…

The Life! A glorious place, a glorious age, I tell you! A very Neon Renaissance… and the myths that actually touched you at that time… not Hercules, Orpheus, Ulysses, and Aeneas… but Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner, Captain America, Plastic Man, The Flash… but of course! What did they think it was… quaint? 

When Kesey talked about the comic-book Superheroes as the honest American myths? It was a fantasy world already… this electro-pastel world of Mom & Dad & Buddy & Sis… in the suburbs. There they go, in the family car, a white Pontiac Bonneville sedan… the family car! A huge crazy god-awful powerful fantasy creature to begin with… 327 horsepower, shaped like twenty-seven nights of lubricious luxury brougham seduction… you're already there, in Fantasyland, so why not move off your smug-harbor quilty-bed dead center and cut loose… go ahead and say it… Shazam! Juice it up to what it's already aching to be: 327,000 horsepower, a whole superhighway long and soaring, screaming on toward... 

Edge City… and ultimate fantasies, current and future... Billy Batson said Shazam! and turned into Captain Marvel. Jay Garrick inhaled an experimental gas in the research lab... and began traveling and thinking at the speed of light as... The Flash… the current fantasy… Yes.

- Excerpt from Tom Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”