The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 26 August 2006

Total Loss Farm

A Year in the Life

by Raymond Mungo

Located in southern Vermont, the Total Loss Farm was a small experiment in communal living, one among many throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Some of these communes still exist. Without question, all of them left a lasting impression on their residents, founders, and visitors. Raymond Mungo, who was a prominent figure in the peace movement with his Liberation News Service, retreated to this farm as the "back to the land" movement began. The farm wasn't a total loss. But there were personalities and conflicts common to all of the well-known communes of the era. So many of them just collapsed under the weight of the influx of transient hippies and other hangers-on. Permanent residents, with a clear vision of what they were doing by creating an alternative to the greater culture of consumption, often had to struggle with the conflicts between newfound freedom and the need for some control to keep their experiments afloat. There are contemporary as well as modern writings that address this very issue. This book, however, is more like an exuberant manifesto of one man's vision of humanity and its potential for true cultural change. It's also a bit of a melange. It opens with a journey down the Concord and Merrimack rivers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Here, Mungo and his friends witness what remains good and natural on these rivers since Thoreau's own journey more than a century before. They don't find much. Their critique of the environment and culture is familiar, but still resonates in the age of Global Warming. Then Mungo takes us on a road trip across the country to San Francisco and up the coast to Oregon. His reflections on how his alternative lifestyle is looked upon along the way give a vivid picture of the times. And he sees other communes and how they're surviving in the soggy Northwest. All along the way, though, Mungo is unrelentingly optimistic about his counterculture and just as pessimistic about the culture he is rejecting. Much of what he says is still relevant, depressingly so. Only, today, there isn't as much of the needed drive for an alternative. But there is, if you look hard enough, much that the nation and world learned from those times.

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Also by Mungo: [Famous Long Ago]

[Other books on the 60s & Counterculture]