Famous Long Ago
My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service
A new edition of a classic text of 1960s America
Originally published in 1970, Raymond Mungo’s picaresque account of his adventures with Liberation News Service in the wild years of 1967 and 1968 has been variously described as youthful, passionate, lyrical, demented, and an iconic symbol of the sixties counterculture. A review in The Nation described it as “hip Huck Finn.”
A college editor at the height of the Vietnam War, Mungo found himself smack in the middle of a mad swirl of activism and dissent, vigorously protesting every-thing from the draft to abortion laws to the university itself. Then he connected with Marshall Bloom to cofound LNS in Washington, D.C., as a news service catering to the burgeoning underground press. One thing led to another, until LNS, like so many other radical organizations, eventually disintegrated into violently warring factions. Mungo’s memoir tracks its development and destruction with wicked humor and literary panache.
In an introduction to this new edition, John McMillian discusses the enduring appeal of Famous Long Ago and situates it within its broader historical context, while the author provides his own retrospective take in a new afterword.
"This is not a book of programmatic politics. . . . It is one young man’s odyssey through the Vietnam war, Martin Luther King’s assassination, the acid-rock counterculture, the bitter splits within the New Left, ending up with him as a post-Beatles Thoreau, digging nature and privacy on a farm in Vermont . . . written from the stormy center of the Movement."—Jack Newfield, New York Times Book Review
"If all revolutionaries were like Mungo, the revolution would be lost, but revolutionary theater would be much improved. More wit, gaiety, lyricism."—The New Republic
"Ray Mungo is a wild party in the upstairs apartment of America. He is also the free mental clinic on the first floor."—Tom Robbins, author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
"Although Famous Long Ago is almost exclusively set within a Movement context, it represents one of America's finest apologies for communal living, counterculture whimsy, and the bucolic myth. . . . we can appreciate Famous Long Ago for what it is: a finely crafted and intensely partisan account of one of the Movement's most exciting moments. It is not history . . . just a good story, well told. Historians can take care of the facts; Mungo can now get back to the Truth."—The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture
"I value this book highly because it's real. It's how it happened. How it felt. The dreams. The failures. The need to adjust ideals, or not. Many books about the '60s are alleged to deliver all this. I can't think of another one that really does."—Headbutler.com
"In fact, if there's anything that gives hope to cynical Mungo, it's the Occupy movement. He was 'astonished' and flattered to find a reference to Famous Long Ago in an Occupy blog 'saying you should read this old book; these people went through this same struggle 50 years ago.'"—The Greenfield Recorder
"The reissue of Raymond Mungo's Famous Long Ago, first published in 1970, does not make one nostalgic, but at least it invokes vividly an unpredictable and dangerous time. . . . The story reveals something of the audacity, even recklessness, that enabled the young left to capture the attention of the nation and the world--and the shallowness and impulsiveness that made it too weak to survive."—Columbia Journalism Review