Do You Believe in Magic?

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? is written about and for the people who came of age in the 1960’s. It adroitly records and reflects on personal reminiscences of the era, adroitly organized into chapters entitled “War,” “Wanderlust,” “Revolution,” “Dope,” “Spirit,” “Love,” and “Work.” These headings alone reveal the contrast between the frame of reference of the 1960’s and that of today’s--as do stories about a “happening” at New York University staged around a thousand-pound chocolate pudding or about teenagers hitchhiking through India on spiritual quests.

Gottlieb ranges far and wide through the hilarious, painful, romanticized, or drug-soaked memories of former flower children, radicals, wanderers, and cultists. Some are cynical, some sentimental about their adventures in communes, crash pads, cults, at peace rallies, or on acid trips; these forays will open the floodgates of memory for some readers and fascinate the uninitiated.

After learning how the interviewees were transformed by the spirit of a new age, one sees them now, in the 1980’s, metamorphosed into a banker, an artist, a writer of horror tales (Stephen King), an insurance saleswoman, and a trio of back-to-the-land neopagans.

For yuppies and survivalists alike, however, Gottlieb maintains that “the Sixties generation is a tribe with its roots in a time, rather than a place or a race ... (a tribe) founded on a vision.” The dream, she argues, did not die with the end of the Vietnam War, the crumbling of the communes, or the return of an interest in material comforts and family life. Her own brave and optimistic view is that of a world ultimately saved from destruction, or at least from brute materialism, by people able to merge the creative, humanistic idealism of the 1960’s with the pragmatism of the 1980’s.