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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is an example of long-form journalism reported and written by American author Tom Wolfe (1930–2018), who weaves together different perspectives and narrators based on the experiences of American author Ken Kesey (1935–2001) and the Merry Pranksters, a group interested in psychedelic or hallucinogenic drug experiences that traveled together by bus in the 1960s. The events and conversations Wolfe experiences firsthand, which appear only at the beginning and the end of the book, are narrated in the first person. Most of the scenes that take place when Wolfe isn't present are narrated in the third person, although in a few instances Wolfe veers into the first person to express collective thoughts.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is written mostly in the past tense. However, Wolfe frequently switches to the present tense when describing an event from a particular character's viewpoint.
In the mid-1960s American author Ken Kesey (1935–2001) and the Merry Pranksters, a group interested in psychedelic or hallucinogenic drug experimentation, held what they called Acid Tests. Open to the public, these LSD-fueled parties were a cacophony of strobing lights, jam-band music, and spoken-word performance. LSD is an acronym for lysergic acid diethylamide, which is derived from ergot, a fungus found on cereal grasses. On February 12, 1966, the Pranksters held an Acid Test in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. They served "Electric Kool-Aid"—Kool-Aid laced with LSD—from a giant plastic garbage can. Everyone who drank the beverage spent the rest of the night in a haze of heightened perception, sometimes for the worse.
This study guide for Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.