Foucault in California [A True Story—Wherein the Great French Philosopher Drops Acid in the Valley of Death] – Heyday 2019

FINC_cover_800px-200x291.jpgFoucault in California [A True Story—Wherein the Great French Philosopher Drops Acid in the Valley of Death] – Heyday 2019. This is the famous/infamous memoir of Simeon Wade, with a foreword by Heather Dundas.

In The Lives of Michel Foucault, David Macey quotes the iconic French philosopher as speaking “nostalgically…of ‘an unforgettable evening on LSD, in carefully prepared doses, in the desert night, with delicious music, [and] nice people.’” This came to pass in 1975, when Foucault spent Memorial Day weekend in Southern California at the invitation of Simeon Wade—ostensibly to guest-lecture at the Claremont Graduate School where Wade was an assistant professor, but in truth to explore what he called the Valley of Death. Led by Wade and Wade’s partner Michael Stoneman, Foucault experimented with psychedelic drugs for the first time; by morning he was crying and proclaiming that he knew Truth.

foucault-and-simeon-wade-claremont-after-the-death-valley-experience.jpg

Foucault and Wade in 1975 – click to see full picture from Boom California.

Foucault in California is Wade’s firsthand account of that long weekend. Felicitous and often humorous prose vaults readers headlong into the erudite and subversive circles of the Claremont intelligentsia: parties in Wade’s bungalow, intensive dialogues between Foucault and his disciples at a Taoist utopia in the Angeles Forest (whose denizens call Foucault “Country Joe”); and, of course, the fabled synesthetic acid trip in Death Valley, set to the strains of Bach and Stockhausen. Part search for higher consciousness, part bacchanal, this book chronicles a young man’s burgeoning friendship with one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers.

It’s a great subtitle, certainly, but the cover is perhaps a little disappointing, especially when there are such great photos of Foucault on this ‘trip’. Simeon Wade died in October 2017, but shortly before his death he took part in a fascinating interview with Heather Dundas. It’s available in Boom California – which also has some of the photos.

Another picture of Foucault with Wade and Stoneman was used for a feature in Time magazine in 1981, and can be seen here. The ‘Chez Foucault’ fanzine by Wade – an interesting document and the only English source of an interview is available here.

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One Response to Foucault in California [A True Story—Wherein the Great French Philosopher Drops Acid in the Valley of Death] – Heyday 2019

  1. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

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