The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 18 May 2004

What the Trees Said

Life on a New Age Farm

by Stephen Diamond

In 1968, shortly after the explosive events at the Chicago Democratic National Convention, the Liberation News Service fell into a conflict of its own. This was a group of radical journalists who had begun the Associated Press of the hippie movement. A couple times a week, they published a collection of articles that went out to alternative, underground, and college publications across the country. By 1968, though, the group had moved from Washington, DC to New York. There, they split along idealogical lines. The political radicals remained in New York, working for revolution through the LNS. The social radicals, though, moved to a farm in western Massachusetts, to live an alternative life on the land. With them, they took much of the news service's equipment and its money. This began a fight between the two groups, but that is not really discussed much in this book (for more on that, see Ray Mungo's Famous Long Ago). Here, Stephen Diamond tells the story of life at the Pretty Boy Floyd Associates farm near Montague, MA. It is a short book, and so is made up of brief vignettes of farm life. And it is an excellent book. Diamond, perhaps because of his education in journalism, treats his very personal subject with a remarkably even hand. At the time, much of the revolutionary writing was polemical, given to the excesses of youthful arrogance and a certitude that everything the youth movement was doing was new, smashing society as we knew it. Diamond sets the farm in a wider context and treats its conflicts and struggles with sensitivity, though perhaps with brevity and lack of depth on some issues. Still this is an excellent document of the time. The book reads like a memoir, but is lodged firmly in its era, written after the farm's second winter and within the first signs that it is succeeding (it lasted beyond another decade). The book doesn't have that feeling of fuzzy retrospect or reflective doubt that a later memoir might have had. It is immediate and engaging. It was surprising that this book was was out of print for many years after this 1971 edition, though now there is a new edition for the 21st century, brought out by a small independent publisher.

[Mail John][To List]

See also: [Drop City]

[Other books on the 60s & Counterculture]