PERFORMING ARTS

Mother American Night: My Life in Crazy Times

with Robert Greenfield. Crown Archetype. Jun. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781524760182. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781524760205. MEMOIR
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OrangeReviewStarBarlow, who died in February 2018 after lengthy battles with various health problems, was a modern-day Renaissance man: Grateful Dead lyricist, cattle rancher, political campaign manager, digital rights pioneer, and much more. It also turns out that he's a great storyteller, with a tendency toward "stretchers" (Mark Twain's shorthand for stretching the truth). Though this reviewer came to this debut memoir knowing the author primarily as one of the Grateful Dead's lyricists, the most fascinating parts turn out to be Barlow's chronicle of his association with early hacker culture and cofounding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sort of ACLU for the Internet. Stories about the Dead do appear throughout; however, Barlow's musings on love frame his narrative and it becomes clear that for him, love means accepting what the world has to offer, not simply passion and romance and loving others.
VERDICT Though the style is breezy and doesn't go too deep emotionally, Barlow's memoir tells such riveting stories on a variety of topics that it's hard to resist. Essential for Deadheads, fans of Wired, and Internet technology mavens.

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