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Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Altamont Augie" ~ The Decadent Sixties...Vietnam, Rock 'n Roll, Making Love-Not War

Overview from Amazon.com:

"Barager spins a compelling tale of youthful passion, both personal and political...a rich, satisfying experience. A well-written, gripping novel that expertly blends fact and fiction, love and conviction."
--Kirkus Indie

"...historical fiction at its very best. The main characters are true-to-life and make the readers care...Barager's writing is always on target." --ForeWord Clarion Reviews, Five Stars (Out of Five)

"Richard Barager has written the novel of the Sixties--a passion-filled, pitch-perfect, roller coaster of a tale about the decade that divides us all..." --David Horowitz, former New Left radical and best selling political author

"The Vietnam War not only claimed thousands of lives, it also shattered a country..."Altamont Augie" is a fascinating read of the harsher conflict of words on the home front and what they meant to the soldier."---Midwest Book Review

"The drowning death of an unidentified man at the infamously violent 1969 Altamont free concert sets the stage for first novelist Barager's dynamic, passionate, often moving exploration of the turbulent and politically divided 1960s...the story of a fraught love triangle...adds arresting human dimensions"--Booklist


A startlingly vivid portrayal of one of the most colorful and turbulent periods in recent American history: the 1960s, as seen through the eyes of two ill-fated college lovers at odds over Vietnam. Their story and the story of their generation spill onto a tableau of some of the era's most iconic settings: the legendary battleground of Khe Sanh; a Midwestern campus riven by dissent; and Altamont Speedway, scene of the notorious rock festival profiled in the film Gimme Shelter. Let this richly satisfying tale transport you to a Sixties state of mind.

About Richard Barager:

Richard Barager
Richard R. Barager, MD, FACP, is a nephrologist in private practice in San Diego’s North County. Dr. Barager, who has twice received a San Diego County Medical Society “Top Doctor” award for distinguished care in his specialty, is a champion of the healing power of literature, and from time to time “prescribes” specific novels to receptive patients and families to help them cope with their burden of illness.
He has engaged the medical community at large in this endeavor via The Literary Doctor, a blog category devoted to the use of literary fiction to help patients and physicians alike explore the meaning of human illness in a way scientific method cannot. A disease can be understood through the process of empiric research and publication; understanding illness—the fully expressed human response to disease, manifested by its emotional, spiritual, financial, as well as physical aspects—requires a different paradigm. Illness is best understood in story form, i.e. selected works of literary fiction.
Dr. Barager has long believed the two finest callings in life are doctor and writer, the one ministering to the human condition, the other illuminating it, both—when performed with compassion and knowledge—capable of transforming it. His novel Altamont Augie, a tale of the late 1960s, is due for publication in June, 2011.

Dr. Barager earned BA and MD degrees at the University of Minnesota, and did postgraduate training at Emory University in Atlanta and the University of California at San Diego. He has published a chapter in a medical textbook, is past chief of staff at a large district hospital, and is fluent in Spanish, in order to better serve his area’s substantial Hispanic population.

Guest Post from Dr. Barager:

Hello to all the loyal followers of The Bookish Dame, and thank you to Deborah for inviting me to write a guest post on her wonderful literary blog.

There is an insatiable curiosity on the part of readers, I think, about the process of writing fiction—what Norman Mailer called "The Spooky Art" in the eponymous title of his famous book on writing. I thought I would attempt to make the art of novel writing a little less spooky by revealing how some of it came to be for me in my debut novel Altamont Augie.

First, a word about how I decided on the subject matter.
As is often the case, it chose me—seven years ago, during the Iraq war. The protests that flared up against the war reminded me of street protests I had witnessed in my youth against another war: Vietnam. Which got me thinking again about the 1960s, a decade that left an enormous cultural and psychological imprint on me. Yet I never really understood the Sixties, never knew what it all meant: the music and fashion, the war and protest, the racial strife and assassinations. Altamont Augie, then, is my humble exploration of the meaning and legacy of the 1960s.

The premise of the book fell into my lap when I came across an article about an event I had nearly forgotten about: Altamont. The Altamont Speedway Concert was a rock festival held on December 6, 1969, in the waning days of the 1960s. It was a concert that went bad. Really bad. So bad, it is regarded by many as the metaphoric Death of the Sixties, the symbolic—and tragic—end of the Age of Aquarius.

The notion of Altamont as the Death of the Sixties quickly became an idée fixe of mine—in a good way. I watched the seminal rock documentary Gimme Shelter (the second half of which is devoted exclusively to Altamont) half a dozen times; read everything about Altamont I could find, including San Francisco Chronicle articles (preserved on microfiche from the pre-digital era) written in the days immediately after the concert; and I visited Altamont—forty miles east of San Francisco—and walked its sere, windblown grounds.

I learned there were four deaths amidst the violence of Altamont, the most famous of which was the stabbing death of a black Berkeley teenager named Meredith Hunter by the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. But what intrigued me far more than Hunter’s notorious slaying was a fatality nobody paid much attention to that day: that of a young man who, an hour into the show, inexplicably got up, walked over to the nearby California Aqueduct, plunged in and drowned. He would remain anonymous, unidentified, his body never claimed. As futile a death as I had ever heard of.  Or not.

Altamont Augie

What kind of man goes to one of the biggest rock concerts of the sixties, manages to drown in a nearby irrigation canal an hour into the show, and is never identified? Who was this John Doe? Another hippie drifter left over from the Summer of Love, more drugged-out flotsam from the wreckage of an overwrought decade? A nutcase, one of thousands wandering the Bay Area back then? An oddball suicide, perhaps.

So much for the trigger of my story. Now for a word about the title.
The "Altamont" piece you already understand. But what about the "Augie" part of it? What’s up with that?

The use of the name Augie in my story and title is a tribute to Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March, one of the greatest novels of 20th century American literature—and to its protagonist, one of the greatest characters in 20th century American literature. What makes Augie March so great? How about this, the greatest opening sentence in 20th century American literature.

I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, freestyle, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.Bellow’s novel about a prototypical American’s quest for identity during the Great Depression championed the belief that an individual, no matter how lowborn and disadvantaged, can succeed in America solely by dint of character and ability. My novel echoes that belief.

So there you have it, two Augies in two different novels, written half a century apart, each in celebration of the greatest statement of human liberty ever written:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. 
Thanks again for having me, Deborah.

Thank you, Dr. Baranger, for enlightening us about your spark of motivation for writing "Altamont Augie," and for the insight into the importance of the title.  You're welcomed to share anytime about anything on my blog!

Now:  A short trailer of your book--

The Dame's View:
Gripping trailer for a gripping novel which would make a really great film.  I was swept up in this story that was a flashback into the turbulent 1960's.

The conflicting ideals and opinions of the Vietnam War are central to the theme of "Altamont Augie;"  as it was to those of us who struggled to make sense of the War in those times, of the reasons why certain of our friends and loved ones were being "drafted" into the clearly "unpopular," politically challenged War, and certain ones were left untouched.  Just like Dr. Barger's characters, we were fighting to make changes in our lives: breaking out of restrictive, status focused chains ready-made for us in a world assuming to hold us back from expressing the knowledge we'd gained of new sciences, new sociology, new art and literature...a new awareness of who we were and what kind of world we wanted, particularly in a world that warned of nuclear annihilation by a Big Bear enemy.  The 1960's generation was the first to break barriers in college-educated citizens, for the first time children were significantly more educated than previous generations.

Through all of these struggles for rights to their own bodies, to their conscience, equality, peace and a voice of freedoms, college sweethearts David and Jackie provide a bird's eye view into the angst of young Americans of the era. 

Like the majority of the world around them Dr. Barager's characters experience professors, friends, student uprisings and news commentary of the day.  And, while the two young lovers are bound to each other, they are also bound to the truths they've arrived at for themselves.  It is these differences in philosophy and values that causes a chasm between them that only love can grow into.

I found "Altamont Augie" a trip back in time.  It's a good story of love and loyalties--honor and shame, the bottom-line 
issues close to our hearts during times of unrest in our country and our homes.   It's a novel written by an accomplished writer whom I expect we'll hear more from in the future. 

On another note, I just want to say that in contrast to the current wars we are sending our young men to in the Middle East, and despite our national conscience and political outcries currently...the Vietnam War was a catalyst for more unity and uprising of voices in America in its day.  There was more determination, more "guts," more a sense of urgency and anger.  Young adults had a sense of gravity and loss, it seems to me.  I'm not sure why this is.  Perhaps it was because so many were forced to fight...perhaps it was seeing them die daily on television (like today: 19 yr. olds, 20, 21, 22-30 yr. olds)...perhaps it was that we were young and felt the oppression of our collective "selves" on so many fronts so profoundly.  Maybe we didn't have the added burden of a society fraught with the base-of-the-pyramid challenges of financial collapse!   Or the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood terriorists in our midst...  All which may seem to be an overwhelming war in itself to surmount.

Whatever the reason...I wish we had the power behind our convictions today that we did back then.

This book is one you'll be glad you read.  It's a quick read with a heart-warming message of love and triumph...with a bit of rock 'n roll to spice it up, and a bit of sobriety to leave us thinking.


*PS:  Order it from me at Amazon.com on my side bar?  This is an amazingly well priced book!


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