A Literary Opus From Lewis Shiner Asks: What Happened To 1960s Idealism?

May 21, 2019

Is it morally superior to be ironic than to be idealistic? This question and decades of lived experience as a musician and music novelist drive Lewis Shiner’s latest literary opus: “Outside The Gates of Eden” (Subterranean Press/2019)

In close to 900 pages, Shiner traces the decline of American idealism through the intertwining narratives of two central characters: Alex and Cole. The two meet in high school and start a garage band in 1965. Shiner follows them for the next 50 years as they witness transformative cultural and political moments, from Woodstock to the Kent State shootings.

He examines how with each passing decade, the two must grapple with how their own values intersect with the changing world around them. Shiner also peppers in characters like an academic, a DJ, and Cole’s father, to provide a three-dimensional picture of the hippie generation, and provoke readers to ask new questions about why things are the way they are today. Host Frank Stasio talks with Lews Shiner about his novel, which he calls “the War and Peace of the Woodstock generation.” Shiner will read from his book at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham on Thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m.