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Outside the Gates of Eden (preorder)

Outside the Gates of Eden (preorder)

by Lewis Shiner

Availability: In stock


Outside the Gates of Edenis a powerful piece of work. Shiner writes about music, and the making of music, better than anyone I know. He gets across the tremendous excitement of the early days of rock and roll, the peace movement, Woodstock and the Summer of Love—but also the heartbreak of failure, betrayal, and loss. The prose is terrific, and the sense of time and place is first rate. A brilliant requiem for our generation and all our dreams.”

—George R. R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones


(preorder—to be published in May)

Dust jacket photograph by Lisa Law.

Outside the Gates of Eden is a powerful piece of work. Shiner writes about music, and the making of music, better than anyone I know. He gets across the tremendous excitement of the early days of rock and roll, the peace movement, Woodstock and the Summer of Love—but also the heartbreak of failure, betrayal, and loss. The prose is terrific, and the sense of time and place is first rate. A brilliant requiem for our generation and all our dreams.”

—George R. R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones


What happened to the idealism of the 1960s? This question has haunted a generation. Outside the Gates of Edenfollows two men from their first meeting in high school to their final destination in the twenty-first century. Alex is torn between his father’s business empire and his own artistic yearnings. Cole finds his calling at a Bob Dylan concert in 1965. From the Summer of Love in San Francisco to Woodstock, from campus protests to the SoHo loft scene, from a commune in Virginia to the outlaw country music of Austin, the novel charts the rise and fall of the counterculture—and what came after. Using the music business as a window into half a century, Outside the Gates of Edenis both epic and intimate, starkly realistic and ultimately hopeful, a War and Peace for the Woodstock generation. 

Limited:1000 signed numbered hardcover copies

“In Outside the Gates of Eden Lewis Shiner displays the panoramic historical consciousness of a Pynchon or DeLillo, and yet every page is suffused with a humble and scrupulous humanity, scrubbed of abstractions or grandiosity—you simply live with his people and know them and love them. Shiner’s interest in the way the world actually works—how people write a song, or learn to dance, or play cards, or write a dissertation, or raise a kid—reminds me of Howard Hawks or John D. Macdonald; this book’s vision is similarly rooted in a retrieval of those gritty, egalitarian virtues that can make you (still) willing to somehow get up in the morning and face it all.”

—Jonathan Lethem

“A story of the sixties that is generous but unflinching, sweeping but intimate, fictional but true. For everyone who’s wondered how we got from there to here and also where we might go next.  Hugely ambitious, simply beautiful.”

—Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club

“Lewis Shiner’s Glimpses made me a lifelong fan. His new novel, Outside the Gates of Eden, is a page-turning tour de force. Anyone with a passion for rock and roll storytelling at its very best must not deny themselves the opportunity to read this tale. A masterpiece.”

—Iain Matthews, of Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort

“Few works of fiction are convincingly set in the world of rock music, and fewer still evoke coming of age in the 1960s with journalistic authenticity and painstakingly accurate detail. With Outside the Gates of Eden, Lewis Shiner not only pulls off these difficult feats, he also brings his characters forcefully into our present age, fearlessly probing their roads to blending their fiery idealism with the hard-gained wisdom of experience.”

— Richie Unterberger, author of Turn! Turn! Turn!: The 1960s Folk-Rock Revolution

Outside the Gates of Eden


Friday morning, August 15, 1969, JFK airport. A guy in a beard and mirrored sunglasses met them when they got off the redeye from San Francisco, holding a sign that said QUIRQ. When Cole asked him if he was their limo driver, the guy laughed as if it was the funniest thing he’d heard in days. He hustled them into a golf cart and drove them to a helipad at the far end of the airport.

Once they were in the air, Cole got the joke. The main freeway headed north from New York City was a parking lot, and when they banked to the left and followed a smaller road, it was also at a standstill. Soon Cole saw cars abandoned by the side of the road and a continuous stream of human beings trudging northwest on foot.

The scene was eerily familiar, and Cole flashed on a nightmare from his childhood, refugees from a nuclear war lining the roads as they fled their irradiated cities. That thought, in turn, made him realize that everything he had assumed about the festival was wrong. Even the most wild-eyed predictions of a hundred thousand people were clearly and hopelessly low. Something that had been building since the Beatles set fire to the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 had reached critical mass, and if it wasn’t an atom bomb, it looked to be nearly as devastating.

At the Holiday Inn in Liberty, Cole slept for a few hours, then caught a ride to the festival site. Unlike the copter he’d ridden in that morning, this one had a spherical glass front, like the one in the WhirlybirdsTV show from Cole’s youth. The seat next to the pilot was open. Country Joe sat in back, wearing a sergeant’s green military fatigues, his dark, shoulder-length hair held by a headband.

The combination of Joe’s uniform and the sound of the idling rotors gave Cole a jolt of Vietnam terror at the base of his spine. He strapped in and set his guitar case on end in front of him. It blocked at least part of the disorienting view through the Plexiglas floor.

“Hey, Cole,” Country Joe said, and Cole reached through the gap between the seats to shake his hand, movement style. Most of the musicians that Cole knew were searching for something. Joe seemed to have found it and tired of it and given it away a long time ago. He’d been a red-diaper baby, had spent three years in the Navy, was highly literate and political and always kept a level head, even when he was tripping, which was a good deal of the time. He had the best deadpan comic delivery of anyone Cole had ever met, and as with so many truly funny people, the humor was fed by a wellspring of bitterness.

Joe gestured vaguely at their surroundings. “It’s like being in the fucking USO, isn’t it?”

“Luckily,” Cole said, “you’re already dressed for the part.”

The helicopter lurched and lifted off and Cole watched the motel and the city fall away, replaced by a landscape of rolling hills, lakes, and trees. Straight lines and pale olive colors where the land was cultivated, a darker, textured green for the woods. Narrow roads cut the abstract canvas into interlocking pieces. These were working farms with tractors that needed to be moved around and produce that needed to get to market. Even from hundreds of feet in the air, Cole sensed something peaceful that emanated from the countryside itself.

The helicopter banked downward and Cole felt a rush of excitement. In a matter of seconds they began to see barns and fences and abandoned cars and then, all at once, throngs of people. In the distance a half-finished stage, a giant framework of raw white pine and a flapping sail of white canvas strung above it. Everywhere else it was a pointillist painting in daubs of pink and white and tan that Cole understood to be a continuous sea of human flesh.

“Incredible,” Country Joe said. “They’re saying three hundred thousand by tonight.”

The number was meaningless to Cole. What he saw was an area the size of a small town that consisted of nothing but one person sitting or standing next to another, and another, and another, in all directions. When he thought there couldn’t be any more, thousands more rolled into view, and thousands after that.

The helicopter circled the site. Pale green canvas tents clustered at the far end of the field, next to a board fence that extended from both sides of the stage. Half a dozen towers of metal scaffolding held spotlights and speakers. A row of portable toilets, not nearly enough. Behind the stage, trailers and a giant tepee. Mostly he saw kids, mostly male, mostly white, mostly teenaged.

Cole remembered the crowds at the Haight two years before. At least three times that many kids had come for the fair, all at once instead of over a period of months. His earlier vision of refugees was wrong. They were here as an affirmation, not a denial. He thought of the way Dylan’s songs, more than anyone else’s, had created an “us” and a “them,” and that he was looking at the culmination of all the songs like them. Hundreds of thousands of kids who saw themselves as part of that “us” had answered the call that they read between the lines of the festival posters. The revolution had happened, invisibly and bloodlessly, in the endlessly repeated acts of packing a knapsack or grabbing a sleeping bag and hitting the road.

“Joe?” Cole said. “I think we just won.”

“You think? That would be nice. We’ve still got a war to end and a few details like that.”

“Look at all those people,” Cole said. “They can’t ignore us now.”

Additional Information

Free Shipping for Select Preorders Yes
Authors Shiner, Lewis
Artists Law, Lisa
Binding Hardcover
Type Novel
Edition Limited
ISBN 978-1-59606-900-8
Year 2019
Month May
Print Status Pre-Order
Shippable Yes
Shipping Class Preorder
Length 880 pages



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