by Richard Hubbard
The infamous, Woodstock Music and Arts Festival of 1969 was a tremendous cultural landmark for an entire generation of Americans. It is also certainly an event ripe for satire. Even actual events, like the Rolling Stones' Altamont Speedway concert, seemed to be satirical take-offs on Woodstock. There have been many books and movies, some of them good and some of them bad. There is, of course, the great Woodstock movie itself. In its time, however, how was Woodstock seen? Was it an immediate icon, or did it slowly soak into the cultural memory? This short novel, on its surface, appears to be a pulp exploitation of the Woodstock phenomenon. Published in 1971, just two years after the big concert, Richard Hubbard's story revolves around a second Woodstock concert, a reunion of sorts, that is designed to put on a show without all the problems of the first. There would be no lack of food or sanitation; there would be control of the crowds; the promoters would make a profit.
For such a short novel, there is a multitude of characters attending the new Woodstock. It is a fairly two-dimensional bunch bordering on the stereotypical: hippie burn-outs, country cops, drug dealers and slumming businessmen. They come to the concert to participate in its scene. We don't see much of the performers themselves, and the ones we do see are thinly veiled versions of real musicians of the day. There are a few more immediate references to recently overdosed Janis and Jimi, and to Kent State, but by and large, this concert doesn't feel like part of the movement as much as a big slow-moving hippie party. And one isn't quite sure what the author had in mind when so many of his characters express their self-loathing in oddly explicit sex scenes, Freudian parent-bashing, and self-destructive outbursts. Is this an exploitative fantasy of an author who based his stories on the myths and rumors from the original Woostock? Is it a wish to have been there or a corporate cautionary tale? Or is it merely a brief book tossed off to make a few bucks on the cultural moment?
It is most likely the latter of these, of course. Yet the frequent and lurid sex scenes, the colorful eruptions of hippie exuberence, and the pulpy quality of the loose plot belie some of the not-too-terrible writing in this novel. It could have been far worse for what it is and there are some characters with a little more going on. So, what is left? This is a crazy kind of document, set within its own time and not doing much more than reiterating the event that was Woodstock. It has an oddly quiet denoument that made this reader almost wish for the chaotic cataclysm of Nathaniel West's Day of the Locust.
(Whatever happened to Richard Hubbard? Was this a pseudonym? He has no appreciable internet footprint, and apparently no other written works.)
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See Also: [Babyhip by Patricia Welles] [The Love-Death Thing by Thomas B. Dewey] [Taurus Four by Rena Vale]