The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed Farm Friends: From the Late Sixties to the West Seventies and Beyond by Tom Fels.
From the review:
While campaigning, Barack Obama has criticized the politics of baby boomers who are still “fighting some of the same fights since the sixties.” Such a criticism must resonate with many Americans, who have grown weary of the boomer cohort’s fondness for itself.
Tom Fels’s “Farm Friends,” although a 1960s memoir, does not really belong to his generation’s self-celebratory tradition. It concerns a group of people who, in the manner of 19th-century utopian communities, lived on a communal farm in western Massachusetts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They worked diligently to usher in the New Age — living as self-sufficiently as possible (aided by the stealing of food and tools), sharing responsibilities and avoiding “the world of trauma outside.” That world included the Vietnam War as well as American middle-class culture, with its apparent lack of interest in realities deeper than consumerism. Farm life would supposedly help create the kind of peace and harmony that the 1960s counterculture was so keen to find.
Naturally, the New Age did not arrive, and the farm members went their separate ways. But Mr. Fels is not intent on merely condemning the experiment or praising it. He shows an appealing resistance to sweeping philosophical explanations and to aphorisms disguised as existential truths, both favorites of the 1960s. In “Farm Friends,” he describes life on the farm, interviews the commune members in later years and examines how their lives reflect (or do not reflect) the ideals they once espoused.
Photo courtesy of Tom Fels.