Terrence McKenna: Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Dugs and Human Revolution 

“I came across food of the gods randomly when I was living in East Texas and 10 years ago. I was learning how to farm and wanted to know more about mycology and stumbled upon the weird and wonderful McKenna who writes exactly the way he speaks. I say so in case there are people out there who would prefer listening over reading. All of his talks are archived on The Psychedelic Salon. The host Lorenzo who is a bit annoying use to be hardcore right and switched teams after an experience.” 

Caroline Wells Chandler 

The ethnobotanist co-author of Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide (not reviewed) puts forth the theory that magic mushrooms are the original “tree of knowledge” and that the general lack of psychedelic exploration is leading Western society toward eventual collapse or destruction–controversial statements, to say the least, though the argument’s details often prove fascinating. In the beginning, McKenna tells us, there were protohumans with small brains and plenty of genetic competition, and what eventually separated the men from the apes was an enthusiasm for the hallucinogenic mushrooms that grew on the feces of local cattle. Claiming that psilocybin in the hominid diet would have enhanced eyesight, sexual enjoyment, and language ability and would have thereby placed the mushroom-eaters in the front lines of genetic evolution–eventually leading to hallucinogen-ingesting shamanistic societies, the ancient Minoan culture, and some Amazonian tribes today–McKenna also asserts that the same drugs are now outlawed in the US because of their corrosive effect on our male-dominated, antispiritual society. Unconsciously craving the vehicles by which our ancestors expanded their imaginations and found meaning in their lives, he says, we feast on feeble substitutes: coffee, sugar, and chocolate, which reinforce competition and aggressiveness; tobacco, which destroys our bodies; alcohol, whose abuse leads to male violence and female degradation; TV, which deadens our senses; and the synthetics–heroin, cocaine and their variations–which leave us victimized by our own addiction. On the other hand, argues McKenna, magic mushrooms, used in a spiritually enlightened, ritual manner, can open the door to greater consciousness and further the course of human evolution- -legalization of all drugs therefore is, he says, an urgent necessity. 

Kirkus Reviews
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Further Writings by the Author: 

The Archaic Revival (PDF)

True Hallucinations (PDF)

Lecture Transcript: The Importance of Human Beings (text)

Lecture Transcript: Culture and Ideology are Not Your Friends (text)
Additional Resources: 

We Don’t Know Enough About the Universe to Have Anxiety (audio)

Final Earthbound Interview (video)

The Future of Humanity: McKenna, Sheldrake, Abraham (video)

Psychedelics Before and After History (video)  


Donna Tartt: The Secret History 

Tartt’s much bruited first novel is a huge (592 pages) rambling story that is sometimes ponderous, sometimes highly entertaining. Part psychological thriller, part chronicle of debauched, wasted youth, it suffers from a basically improbable plot, a fault Tartt often redeems through the bravado of her execution. Narrator Richard Papen comes from a lower-class family and a loveless California home to the “hermetic, overheated atmosphere” of Vermont’s Hampden College. Almost too easily, he is accepted into a clique of five socially sophisticated students who study Classics with an idiosyncratic, morally fraudulent professor. Despite their demanding curriculum (they quote Greek classics to each other at every opportunity) the friends spend most of their time drinking and taking pills. Finally they reveal to Richard that they accidentally killed a man during a bacchanalian frenzy; when one of their number seems ready to spill the secret, the group–now including Richard–must kill him, too. The best parts of the book occur after the second murder, when Tartt describes the effect of the death on a small community, the behavior of the victim’s family and the conspirators’ emotional disintegration. Here her gifts for social satire and character analysis are shown to good advantage and her writing is powerful and evocative. On the other hand, the plot’s many inconsistencies, the self-indulgent, high-flown references to classic literature and the reliance on melodrama make one wish this had been a tauter, more focused novel. In the final analysis, however, readers may enjoy the pull of a mysterious, richly detailed story told by a talented writer.

Publisher’s Weekly
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New York Times
The Guardian
The New Canon

Additional Resources: 

Donna Tartt Interview, 1992 (video)
Donna Tartt Interview, 2017 (video)

James Elkins: The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing 

At first it appears that nothing could be easier than seeing. We just focus our eyes and take in whatever is before us. This ability seems detached, efficient and rational – as if the eyes were competent machines telling us everything about the world without distorting it in any way. But those ideas are just illusions, James Elkins argues, and he suggests that seeing is undependable, inconsistent and cauthg up in the threads of the unconscious. Blindness is not the opposite of vision, but its constant companion, and even the foundation of seeing itself. Using drawings, paintings, diagrams and photographs to illustrate his points, Elkins raises intriguing questions and offers astonishing perceptions about the nature of vision.
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Kirkus Reviews
Optometry and Vision Science Journal

Further Writings by the Author: 

How to Use Your Eyes (PDF)
Why Art Cannot be Taught: A Handbook for Students (PDF)
The Three Configurations of Practice Based PHDs (PDF)

Additional Resources: 

Author’s Website
Lecture: What is Research (video)
Lecture: On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art (video)
Panel: Art History in a Post Secular Age (video)

Ad Reinhardt: Art as Art: Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt

Ad Reinhardt is probably best known for his black paintings, which aroused as much controversy as admiration in the American art world when they were first exhibited in the 1950s. Although his ideas about art and life were often at odds with those of his contemporaries, they prefigured the ascendance of minimalism. Reinhardt's interest in the Orient and in religion, his strong convictions about the value of abstraction, and his disgust with the commercialism of the art world are as fresh and valid today as they were when he first expressed them.

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Additional Resources:
Rob Storr on Ad Reinhardt
Oral History Interview with Ad Reinhardt, 1964 (transcript)

Lewis Hyde: Trickster Makes This World

Trickster Makes This World solidifies Lewis Hyde's reputation as, in Robert Bly's words, "the most subtle, thorough, and brilliant mythologist we now have." In it, Hyde now brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in trickster mythology. He first revisits the old stories–Hermes in Greece, Eshu in West Africa, Krishna in India, Coyote in North America, among others–and then holds them up against the life and work of more recent creators: Picasso, Duchamp, Ginsberg, John Cage, and Frederick Douglass. Authoritative in its scholarship, loose-limbed in its style, Trickster Makes This World ranks among the great works of modern cultural criticism.

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Profile of Lewis Hyde: What is Art? (NYT)
Review: The Guardian
Introduction to The Gift
Essay: Common as Air

Manlio Brusatin & Jean Claire: Identity and Alterity: Figures of the Body

Catalogue from the 1995 Venice Biennale, edited by the exhibition curator Jean Claire and art historian Manlio Brusatin. Includes works from the exhibition as well as great essays on the body in art.

Artists Included:
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Vincenzo Agnetti, Diane Arbus, Antonin Artaud, Francis Bacon, Giacomo Balla, Balthus , Georg Baselitz, Max Beckmann, Rudolf Belling, Hans Bellmer, Joseph Beuys, Arthur Bispo do Rosario, Umberto Boccioni, Alighiero e Boetti, Jacques-Andre Boiffard, Christian Boltanski, Pierre Bonnard, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Louise Bourgeois, Constantin Brancusi, André Breton, Günter Brus, Alberto Burri, Carlo Carrà, Felice Casorati, Mario Ceroli, César , Paul Cézanne, Helen Chadwick, Marc Chagall, Camille Claudel, Clegg & Guttmann, Francesco Clemente, Chuck Close, Jean Cocteau, Merce Cunningham, Giorgio De Chirico, Willem De Kooning, Paul Delvaux, Maurice Denis, Fortunato Depero, Otto Dix, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Marlene Dumas, Thomas Eakins, James Ensor, Jean Fautrier, Eric Fischl, Fischli / Weiss, Barry Flanagan, Lucio Fontana, Lucian Freud, Katharina Fritsch, Paola Gandolfi, Paul Gauguin, Alberto Giacometti, Andy Goldsworthy, Philip Guston, Otto Gutfreund, Renato Guttuso, Hans Haacke, Mona Hatoum, Gary Hill, Hiroschi Senju, David Hockney, Ferdinand Hodler, Martin Honert, Stephan von Huene, Jörg Immendorff, Jehon Soo Cheon, György Jovanovics, Wassily Kandinsky, Mike Kelley, André Kertész, Fernand Khnopff, Ronald B. Kitaj, Yves Klein, Gustav Klimt, Peter Kogler, Oskar Kokoschka, Leon Kossoff, Richard Kriesche, Eugène Leroy, Max Liebermann, Markus Lüpertz, Akram el Magdoub, Aristide Maillol, Kasimir Malewitsch, Man Ray, Paul McCarthy, Piero Manzoni, Giacomo Manzù, Marino Marini, Henri Matisse, Ludwig Meidner, Fausto Melotti, Mario Merz, Joan Miró, Amedeo Modigliani, Robert Morris, Edvard Munch, Viktor Musiano, Zoran Music, Bruce Nauman, Joshua Neustein, Nunzio , Georgia O ́Keeffe, Roman Opalka, Meret Oppenheim, Ubaldo Oppi, Giulio Paolini, Claudio Parmiggiani, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Pablo Picasso, Gianni Pisani, Jackson Pollock, Kathy Prendergast, Arnulf Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, Auguste Rodin, Medardo Rosso, Thomas Ruff, Ivo Saliger, Alberto Savinio, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Scipione , Giovanni Segantini, Andres Serrano, Gino Severini, Medhat Shafik, Cindy Sherman, Mario Sironi, Kiki Smith, Ettore Sottsass, Ettore Spalletti, Mark di Suvero, Takis , Wayne Thiebaud, Ben Vautier, Didier Vermeiren, Bill Viola, Andy Warhol, Adolf Wissel, Wols , Carlo & Wanda Wulz, Yan Peiming, Gilberto Zorio

Further Resources:
NYT Review: Past Upstages Present at Venice Biennale
Selected Images of Works Included

Douglas Crimp: On the Museum’s Ruins

On the Museum's Ruins presents Douglas Crimp's criticism of contemporary art, its institutions, and its politics alongside photographic works by the artist Louise Lawler to create a collaborative project that is itself an example of postmodern practice at its most provocative. Crimp elaborates the new paradigm of postmodernism through analyses of art practices broadly conceived, not only the practices of artists—Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman, Marcel Broodthaers, Richard Serra, Sherrie Levine, and Robert Mapplethorpe—but those of critics and curators, of international exhibitions, and of new or refurbished museums such as the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin.

The essays:

– Photographs at the End of Modernism.

– On the Museum's Ruins.

– The Museum's Old, the Library's New Subject.

– The End of Painting.

– The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism.

– Appropriating Appropriation.

– Redefining Site Specificity.

– This is Not a Museum of Art.

– The Art of Exhibition.

– The Postmodern Museum.

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Joseph Campbell: Myths to Live by

What is a properly functioning mythology and what are its functions? Can we use myths to help relieve our modern anxiety, or do they help foster it? In Myths to Live by, Joseph Campbell explores the enduring power of the universal myths that influence our lives daily and examines the myth-making process from the primitive past to the immediate present, retuning always to the source from which all mythology springs: the creative imagination.Campbell stresses that the borders dividing the Earth have been shattered; that myths and religions have always followed the certain basic archetypes and are no longer exclusive to a single people, region, or religion. He shows how we must recognize their common denominators and allow this knowledge to be of use in fulfilling human potential everywhere.

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Peter Schjeldahl: Hydrogen Jukebox

For those who may be baffled by the contemporary art scene, most art criticism only serves to further confuse. Opening this book, however, is a refreshingly frank and entertaining venture. Both a poet and a critic, Schjeldahl weaves together theory, cultural context, and artistic technique. He draws one in with a simple opening line like "Jeff Koons makes me sick," then follows with an essay of surprising perception. He writes of Rothko, Warhol, de Kooning, Sherman, and Nauman, yet he doesn't ignore the animators at Disney, who are part of the art scene. The author is an art critic for The Village Voice and contributing editor for Art in America

Village Voice art critic Schjeldahl's reviews may occasion controversy–for example, his curt dismissal of Australian aboriginal painting or his putdown of Susan Rothenberg's later horses. Yet he is also a totally engaged art critic, as revealed by this awesomely alert batch of reviews, essays, articles, plus one interview and two funny poems ("I Missed Punk" and a verse-monologue lament on being a critic). He champions Eric Fischl's moralistic psychodramas, Edvard Munch's art of "emotional recognitions," Larry Rivers's reveling in chaos, Leon Golub's exposes of torturers and mercenaries. Anselm Kiefer, known for canvases laden with references to Nazism, is put in perspective here as a mostly self-referential, ahistorical painter. Ranging from Manet to minimalism, these partisan, passionate writings, edited by art appraiser Wilson, function as a savvy handbook on the current art scene.

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Lucy Lippard: Six Years

In Six Years Lucy R. Lippard documents the chaotic network of ideas that has been labeled conceptual art. The book is arranged as an annotated chronology into which is woven a rich collection of original documents—including texts by and taped discussions among and with the artists involved and by Lippard, who has also provided a new preface for this edition. The result is a book with the character of a lively contemporary forum that offers an invaluable record of the thinking of the artists—a historical survey and essential reference book for the period

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PDF: Escape Attempts (excerpt from Six Years)

Other Writings Available as PDF:
Get the Message: A Decade of Social Change
The Lure of the Local
Trojan Horses: Activist Art and Power
Sweeping Exchanges: The Contributions of Feminism to the Art of the 1970s

Selected Lectures:
Ghosts, The Daily News, and Prophecy: Critical Landscape Photography
Changing: On Not Being an Art Critic
Lecture at the New School
Exhibition Histories at the Whitechapel Gallery