three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
27-Mar-Apr-2007
By: 
Robert Stone
user_rating: 
0

Remembering the Sixties

A-Prime GreenNovelist Robert Stone’s first foray into nonfiction is a personal memoir of social upheaval during the turbulent 1960s. Against the backdrop of the counterculture, Stone weaves together memories of drug use, parties, music, art, marriage, fatherhood, infrequent odd jobs as an encyclopedia salesman and a tabloid journalist, and a visit to Vietnam in 1971. His experiences prove that his life during that decade was just as gritty as anything in his novels. Taking center stage is his friendship with 1960s icon Ken Kesey, who, for Stone, embodies the zeitgeist. Prime Green serves a historical purpose, but it also stands out as the story of the evolution of a writer coming to terms with his talent and finding his literary niche.
Ecco. 240 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0060198168

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"[Robert Stone’s] recollections of the period are both exuberant and sobered, writing from a time when the Day-Glo has faded. … Stone approaches the historical sentiments of the political left (both New and Old) with tough love—a tender distancing that distinguishes him from many other commentators on the times." Art Winslow

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"He knows how to fly down the high road of ideas, then suddenly crank the steering wheel of style and take us for a tough ride along the ditches. He’s great on people—on joining their abstract insides to their outsides—and he’s even better on places." Walter Kirn

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Stone’s memoir of the 1960s views with unsentimental clarity a decade that has been the subject of more overheated rhetoric than any other in U.S. history. … Prime Green is often extremely witty." Wendy Smith

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"Its narrative assumes a chatty, informal tone, preferring the less demanding form of ‘and-then-we … ’ to any rigorous or exacting thematic structure. … The narrator of Prime Green is more interested in describing the flashbacks of an exotic life than in putting a literary spin to those memories." Gail Caldwell

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"In recounting such adventures, Mr. Stone has a disconcerting way of hopscotching from incident to incident, memory to memory, often leaving the reader wanting more details and more follow-up. … What Mr. Stone excels at is conjuring the mood of specific times and places, capturing the attitude he and his friends shared as well as the larger zeitgeist." Michiko Kakutani

Los Angeles Times 1.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s meandering, even dull. Part of the problem is that, despite Stone’s presence at scenes ranging from the legendary Acid Tests to military briefing rooms, from Paul Newman’s production office to the Beatles’ Savile Row headquarters, he was never much of a joiner but someone who held himself apart." David L. Ulin

Critical Summary

Robert Stone adds his voice to our collective meditation on the 1960s in this hard-edged retelling of his involvement in the counterculture. Critics considered this memoir a worthy entry, a sharp and darkly humorous insider’s look into the intellectual and cultural climate of an era. Some were disappointed by the long threads of chronological anecdotes. According to the Los Angeles Times, "There’s a difference between memory and memoir, which requires not just recollection but reflection, a perspective and a point of view." Perhaps it is enough that, in recreating his defining years, Stone allows us a glimpse into the framework of his novels. Prime Green will appeal to fans of his fiction as well as to fans of the era itself.

Also by the Author

Dog Soldiers (1974): Award Star National Book Award. Based on Stone’s brief experience as a war correspondent in Vietnam, this dark novel charts the moral decline of an aspiring writer who decides to earn some extra cash smuggling heroin in Southeast Asia.