The Book of Changes ($15.95, 306 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN:978-1-60381-186-6), by Jack Remick, is a work of literary fiction that covers a tumultuous year in the life of an idealistic first-year male student enrolled at UC Berkeley in 1971. It is Book Three of The California Quartet, a series of standalone novels about young men coming of age in California during the ’60s and ’70s. The final volume, Trio of Lost Souls, will be released by Coffeetown Press in 2014. The series began with The Deification and Valley Boy.
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“Remick’s mastery of the narrative craft infuses a common story line—college kid faces challenges and grows up—with an intimate sense of character and setting …. The Book of Changes shines in the crowded genre of coming-of-age narratives.”
—Melissa Wuske, ForeWord Magazine
“Covering much the same cultural terrain as Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road, The Book of Changes follows a young narrator’s coming-of-age in Berkeley. Yet Jack Remick’s take on the cultural revolution humanizes familiar material. Beast, the narrator, starts off eager for initiation into the Berkeley scene: the university, the drugs, the ‘broads,’ the art. But unlike Kerouac’s protagonist who rides from town to town, indifferent to and unaccountable for the consequences of his choices, Remick gives us a conscientious young man. Beast sticks around long enough to see the aftermath of drug addiction and free love. And the trail of wreckage deeply affects him. As the deaths and broken relationships tally up in his friends’ lives, Beast develops a more honest, compassionate perspective than Kerouac’s characters ever achieved. A moving tale of one young man’s struggle to carve out his own dignity and truth in the midst of radical turbulence.”
–M.C. Easton, author of The Gods of Kittitas County
“Beast” is a pure innocent with one simple goal—to become an expert on the Middle Ages. He comes to Berkeley, the Cathedral of Learning, in 1971, a time of political upheaval, hallucinogenic drugs, group sex, and electric, acid, psychedelic, mind-bending rock and roll. On his quest for meaning he hangs out with a Harley-riding dwarf, a raven-haired Gothic artists’ model, a sorority girl turned nymphomaniac, and the heir to a family of French aristocrats with a bloody history dating back to before Joan of Arc. Beast soon discovers that he can’t live in the past but has to embrace the present, with its traps and land mines and the horrors of contemporary society—death by motorcycle and bad acid trips. The world is exploding, but students still go to classes, fall in love, get laid, study in libraries, win awards, even graduate. The country is on fire, and Berkeley supplies the fuel.
Says Remick: “When I went to Cal, there was no tuition. Education was free. You paid a $76.50 registration fee, and you paid for your books, your room and board. Anything that was left you spent on booze and motorcycles. Then Ronald Reagan was elected governor and the good times ended. The Free Speech Movement (FSM) came along and the rebellion that started in Sproul Hall grew into a firestorm of protests and death and destruction. Education took a hit, tuition blasted off, leaving only the rich and well-heeled in the classrooms. After Ronald Reagan, California was never at peace again. This novel, The Book of Changes doesn’t purport to be either a sociological thesis or a history of anything. It is a fictional record of a sort filtered through time and the consciousness of young women and men who were looking for a new definition of America, of California, of the world. We didn’t succeed.”
Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. Blood, A Novel was published by Camel Press in 2011. The Deification, Valley Boy, and Gabriela and the Widow are all available from Coffeetown Press. Coming in 2014: Trio of Lost Souls and a collection of poems, Satori. Click here to find Jack online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
The next morning Tim took me to the Bear’s Lair to put up an ad for roommates. The Bear’s Lair was hamburger heaven in a dark pit that smelled of French fries and hair thick with the scent of Cannabis sativa. Long hair. Lots of long hair. Women with long hair, men with long hair. Braids, ponytails, hair strung with beads and woven with bright strips of batiked cloth. Booths lined the walls, students read in the half-light like monks studying scripture or anchorites poring over cryptic secrets in long lost heretical Gnostic texts.
I said, “Is this a cool place to meet chicks?”
“This is Berkeley,” Tim said. “Get your head straight—Books, Beast. Books.
“The Prime Directive is to get laid.”
“That’s Pete’s Prime Directive. Books or sex.”
“You’re right. I’m going to be too busy studying to meet chicks.”
Tim printed the ad on a pink three by five card—
“Serious students seek two roommates—male, female, other—smokers, drinkers, no sexaholics. Politics to the right of Attila the Hun. Motorcycle Maniacs acceptable. Call Sexdraculastein at Thornwall 8 4476 for details.”
“Who is Sexdraculastein?” I said.
“That’s me. Never use your real name on an ad in the Bear’s Lair.”
“Perverts,” Tim said. “Now we go pick up our stuff at Greyhound.”