Updated 14 November 2017: I’ve just heard that Simeon Wade died in October, making this interview even more important. There is a brief obituary here. My condolences to Wade’s family.
Boom California has just published an interview with Simeon Wade, conducted by Heather Dundas. If you’ve read the Foucault biographies, you’ll probably know about the acid trip in Death Valley story. James Miller makes a great deal of this, having talked to Simeon Wade who, with his partner Michael Stoneman, took Foucault on the journey. Wade was the originator of the ‘Chez Foucault’ fanzine which I’ve previously discussed and shared on this site.
The interview with Wade is fascinating, though some of its claims need to be taken with caution. The visit took place in June 1975, four months after Surveiller et punir appeared in French, and eighteen months before History of Sexuality volume I was published. That the trip had a profound effect on Foucault may well be true, but that it led him to criticise Bentham for the first time is impossible. And if it had such an impact on his thinking for the History of Sexuality, then why did he continue to work on the book for over a year, along with outlining the initial plan which, according to Wade, the trip made him discard?
The piece is open access and well worth a read. I was asked to look at it before publication, and the editors of Boom have used some of my comments in the notes. But what I didn’t see until its publication are the photos. Well worth a look. That jacket!
Another picture of Foucault with Wade and Stoneman was used for a feature in Time magazine in 1981. It can be seen here. Wade is also the author of an unpublished “121 page typescript”, ‘Foucault in California’, which recounts the trip in Death Valley in detail. Miller used this for his biography.
[Update 2019: the memoir, Foucault in California, has now been published]