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by Dirk Wittenborn

      Dirk Wittenborn cuts a thin slice of American pie in Pharmakon, his novel about a 1950s Yale professor involved in psychological drug research, and his family. That's a pretty thin slice of pie to buy into. But, when placed upon the plate, that slice of pie expands to provide a most memorable, hilarious, thoughtful, and thought-provoking view of the entire American pie from that time to this. Wittenborn includes hilarity, history, and universal, along with particular, family strife, leading to a reader's view into the looking glass at his own life and family upbringing.

When the researcher, after accidentally absorbing some experimental hallucinogen, comes home to find a mulberry tree full of talking parrots and thinks he is hallucinating, he ruminates on the meaning of his discovery to mankind. A moment of enlightenment, the reader thinks, a story of discovery, and his hopes for family success achieved. But the reader is reduced to grabbing his sides in laughter as the researcher's wife walks out the front door to comment on the peculiarity of the birds' appearance.

What an enticing and pleasurable novel to read! Wittenborn's ability to draw the reader into a past time, with his skill at description of surroundings and thoughts, is so very unique these days. A multi-faceted book, indeed. Desire, hopes, destruction, illness, passion, tragedy, power, and loss. Again, what a pleasure to read.

The Book

Viking Press
July 2008
Historical Fiction / 1950ís America
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The Reviewer

Chris Querry
Reviewed 2008
© 2008