After trudging through "Shroom," which I fortunately bought at
cut-out price in a used book store, I have a hard time imagining what Andy
Letcher's motivation for writing it was. I was waiting for some kind of new
insight which would justify the time spent, but all I got was a lot of
humorless nit-picking about "history," a protracted exercise in
defamation, and a vacuum of misunderstanding of what his targets were about.
History can be shaped to appear to prove or disprove anything anyway, by anyone
with the will and patience to do so. Why title a book "Shroom" and
then proceed to suck every ounce of wonder, mystery and fun out of the topic?
It seems as if Letcher is trying in some way to reassert cold science's
dominion over early 21st century life, refuting all ideas that fail to live up
to the challenge of scientifically verifiable data.
But this is totally missing the point anyway. Whether or not the ideas of McKenna, Wasson, Allegro or Heinrich can be proved or disproved by someone calling himself a "historian," they are mythology anyway, and a useful, vital mythology is what any culture needs to thrive. Our society is desperately in search of a new myth to help it negotiate the current state of disgrace it finds itself in. Just read a little Joseph Campbell for starters. You won't be able to "prove" any of it but you might come away with some inspiration, and that's more than I got from this book.
The book jacket photo of the author says it all: hand blocking the lit side of his face, the other side in deep shadow, as if he didn't want anyone (especially magic mushroom enthusiasts!) to recognize him on the street. I don't blame him. One wonders if his little bubble was burst at that hippy rock festival at which Acid House music first appeared, thus setting the stage for Rave culture and the marginalization of his mandolin and bagpipe folkiness. Maybe he should actually try the magic mushrooms himself and see if they say anything to him. But no, that's not his calling and besides, they would probably tell him "Your music sucks, and so does your book."