The Millennium Shows is a penetrating and prescient interpretation of the sociological implications of the early 90's Deadhead scene. Yet to say The Millennium Shows is a landmark of Grateful Dead fiction is to sell it short. The Millennium Shows is a landmark of American fiction - a prophetic page-turner that is mysterious, visionary, horrifying, and compulsively readable. It is a tale of displacement, angst, love, and the struggle of a regular guy to maintain his autonomy in the face of an intrusive and increasingly hive-like society. Indeed, author Philip Baruth burrows deep into the darker side of Deadhead culture. With his mysterious and conflicted narrator, Story, we move through the underworld of traveling families bound together - and wrenched apart - by the encroaching pressures of surviving outside mainstream America. But there is more than Deadhead culture here. There is a Burroughsian insect awareness of claustrophobic catacomb energies that will reach deep inside of you and shift your perception in almost chemical ways. Joan Didion, in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, a highly critical essay on the young hippies of San Francisco's Haight Ashbury, made this observation: "We were seeing something important. We were seeing the desperate attempt of a handful of pathetically ill-equipped children to create a community in a social vacuum." Likewise, we see this attempt fully extrapolated a generation later in The Millennium Shows. Yet, unlike Didion, Baruth's portrayal is not an outsider's. His viewpoint character, named Story, who at one point tells us that "There was never a day in the history of the world when there was less resistance to passing into a group," takes the reader inside the caravanning Deadhead scene. "Most mornings we rippled into consciousness," Story says, always viewing his world with languid vividness. It isn't until well into this finely nuanced novel that our protagonist's steady, omniscient tone begins unraveling into psychic dissonance.
Used availability for Philip Baruth's The Millennium Shows
March 2012 : USA Mass Market Paperback
June 1994 : USA Paperback
March 2012 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition