The celebration of Woodstock continues at the Monmouth Museum with an upcoming book talk being held on August 20th, 2019, from 7:00pm – 9:00pm. Bring your book club, and join in on the discussion of the book 1969: A Brief and Beautiful Trip Back, written by author Sea Gudinski.
Take a trip down the rabbit hole without ever leaving the comfort of your living room…This novel features many exciting genres, where history meets science fiction, and psychedelics meet spirituality through a seamless blend of fact and fantasy.
1969: A Brief and Beautiful Trip Back is one girl’s account of her fantastic and unique experience of the hippie counterculture and how it changed her and those around her for the rest of their lives. From a run-of-the-mill existence in the ultra-conservative town of Fresno, California, formerly naïve teenager and rock devotee Rhiannon Karlson takes the trip of a lifetime after a drug dealer sells her a particularly potent and mysterious substance, sparking her unparalleled journey of soul-searching, consciousness-expansion, and unyielding search for the Truth. The rest, you may say, is history.
Come to the Museum on August 20th to find out what inspired a 21 year old to write this novel and how Rhiannon Karlson’s character developed, as well as Sea’s experience with writing her book, which she expands upon in her own words through an interactive (if you have access to a copy) explanation below.
“The first thing people generally ask me when they find out I wrote this book is “what made a 21-year-old so possessed to write about 1969?” First and foremost, both of my parents lived through the 1960s. My father was a soldier in Vietnam as well as a musician. He was involved in the counterculture and attended Woodstock in 1969—an event that he felt dramatically influenced the course of his life. I grew up hearing his stories and listening to the music of the era and felt a personal connection to the time. I was inspired by the time and by the people and what they were trying to do. There is something magical about the ideals of peace and love and freedom expressed in that way. There’s something about an entire generation of people so taken by the same vision, each of them striving toward it as they saw fit. There’s something about a couple of million people trying to live a quote-on-quote ‘utopian’ lifestyle in a very dystopian world. There’s something very poetic and something very raw about that. It speaks to our humanity and the human condition; our follies and our redemption, our shortcomings and our triumphs. My intent behind 1969 was to recapture the spirit of that time half a century ago and preserve for history a record of the message, meaning, and legacy of the era, as well as to provide an entertaining, accurate, and objective perspective of the decade that could be enjoyed by those who lived through it as well as those who learned about it in school.
In addition to the stories, the music of the time was a large part of what inspired me to write the novel. Music has always been incredibly inspirational to me, especially the protest music of the late 1960s. Those artists used such a powerful and engaging medium to express their thoughts and feelings to millions and their words and music actually spurred positive change in this world. That music was born out of the strife faced by that generation, but the message and meaning inherent in the music apply to every generation—which is a large part of why we still listen to it today.
Lastly, a great deal of my inspiration came after reading Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I read that book twice before I realized that he was not recounting events that he had personally experienced and was shocked. I wanted readers to feel as if they themselves were feeling and experiencing the events portrayed in the book—and all the emotion and realization that go with them—alongside Rhiannon. I wanted to give something to the people who lived through the time as a form of entertaining nostalgia, but I also wanted to give those who were not yet born a means by which they could feel as if they were transported there—as I did through my research and writing of the novel.
1969 contains something for everyone. The novel is written with a great deal of complexity, but it is structured in a way that makes it easy to digest and enjoyable to read. It delves deeply into the historical and social importance of the counterculture and the era, but it’s also incredibly spiritual. It follows the professional journey of an aspiring musician, but it also explores the dynamics of human relationships. It is about history, surely, but it is just as much about personal growth and enlightenment. The narrative accentuates the setting and vice versa. Each character represents a different facet of the time and provides you with a glimpse into a unique experience of the era.
One of the major tenants of the novel deals with how our experiences shape us and cause us to grow and change—and just how difficult it can be at times to communicate to others the depth and influence of the experiences we have undergone. At its core, the novel is about a torrid relationship between a mother and daughter and how each of their experiences in 1969 affects their relationship with one another. The novel begins in Fresno in the year 2000 and recounts the challenges Rhiannon and her classic rock cover band, The Descendants, face as they attempt to advance their career. Their success is repeatedly thwarted by Rhiannon’s mother, and after a rather intense confrontation, Rhiannon runs away and finds herself in San Francisco—and miraculously, in the year 1969. There she is taken in by another band of musicians and becomes deeply involved in the counterculture and the lifestyle she had always dreamed of—performing at famed venues such as the Fillmore and the Whisky a-Go-Go, meeting rock n’ roll legends, traveling across the country, and attending Woodstock. Rhiannon narrates her experiences as she bears witness to both the feats and failures of the youth counterculture reflected in the events of 1969, the hippie lifestyle and the mores and philosophies they espoused. It provides a fascinating, accurate, and objective perspective of the history made in that era, how its influence has persisted through time, and what we can learn from it.
Another main theme of the novel that sort of piggybacks on the importance of shared experience and how it can kindle mutual understanding is the effectiveness of language to communicate experiences when they are not shared. It is the question of the true value of words themselves that are examined thoroughly throughout the novel, especially when Rhiannon undergoes experiences that she feels cannot be accurately communicated with words alone.
Her first encounter with the insufficiency of words comes when she enters the ‘Trips Center’—her home during her time in 1969—for the first time. [read page 84-85]
When the novel opens, Rhiannon is more or less your average teenager. She is intelligent and perceptive, but she is quite naïve. Her trip back into the past acts as a catalyst to her spiritual development and prompts her journey of self-discovery. Shortly after she arrives in 1969, she is introduced to the concept of IT or Infinite Truth which she spends the rest of the book fervently pursuing. Rhiannon’s search for Truth takes her across the country, to Woodstock, and back again.
For those of you who aren’t aware, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the nearly-disastrous music festival that took place in an upstate New York field and was held together by peace and love alone. For four days, over 500,000 people endured torrential rain, rivers of mud, a lack of food, water, and other necessities and did so with a smile. For many, this event marked the zenith of the counterculture movement. For Rhiannon, Woodstock represents the culmination of her search for IT, and what she discovers and holds to be True defines her experiences for the rest of the novel as her newfound values are put to the test.
From the very beginning of the novel, it is very obvious that Rhiannon regards the Woodstock festival with a sort of mystical awe; something she has always longed to have experienced but was eternally unreachable in the past—until she finds herself there. There are roughly 70 pages that deal directly with Woodstock, and I will read an excerpt from them now. Rhiannon and her band, The Day Trippers, arrived in Bethel, New York three days before the festival began, and they were not alone. This first passage recounts Rhiannon’s description of her fellow festival-goers as she watches them arrive there for the first time. [read page 328]
As I am sure some of you are aware, Richie Havens was the first performer to take the stage at Woodstock; which he did at roughly 5:00 PM on August 15, 1969, at the request of the festival organizers, as the scheduled first performer, Sweetwater, had not yet arrived. He played for about three hours, and the most famous song of his set—potentially the most famous song of Woodstock—Freedom sort of sums up what the whole thing was all about. [read 340-342]
There is one more passage that I feel is particularly emblematic of the time and relates very strongly to the struggles faced in today’s world—many of them the same that people 50 years ago were fighting to control. It’s something to think about… 
Quote from page 330: “In this world of forever changes, there are only a few things that are eternal. Peace and love are amongst them; however, today they seem to be the hardest to find. But in this place, peace and love are all there is.”
So at this point you might be thinking, “man, she really knows a lot about history, what is the point of writing historical fiction rather than something nonfiction?” This is a question that I get frequently and the answer I always give is that history to most people is stuffy and academic, it is usually the subject they enjoyed the least in school and they consider history to be just a long list of dates and bygone events experienced by people who died a long time ago and are of no interest to them. My view of history has always been the opposite. Our time and every single one of us living in it is the latest products of millions of years of history. Each new day is carved under the shadow of yesterday in the light of our hope for tomorrow. Our environment, society, and culture are forged and shaped by memories, some more recent than others. In writing historical fiction, I seek to bring those memories back to life and make the history contained within them interesting and immersive.
I’d like to leave you with a passage that encapsulates my view of history and its importance today and every day. [Read page 557]” – Sea Gudinski
Additional discussion points of the book will include: – Ken Kesey’s quote ‘there’s something about what we are doing that we are meant to lose’ and its significance; how it pertains to the human condition and Rhiannon’s search for Truth.- The significance of the photograph-The juxtaposition of Part 2 against part 3-The meaning of words and effectiveness of language in storytelling and communicating experience-What aspects of the counterculture the characters represent; Bobby and Al as opposite sides of the same spectrum-Rhiannon’s assessment of Truth and her journey toward it-Sound v. Silence-What happens after the book ends
The book 1969: A Brief and Beautiful Trip Back can be purchased at the Monmouth Museum, on amazon, or local bookstores.
The Monmouth Museums Woodstock at 50: Summer of Love exhibition will be going on throughout the duration of the summer, closing on September 1st, so come celebrate Woodstock and see it before it’s gone!
The Monmouth Museum’s hours of operation include Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, and it is also open Sundays from 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
The Monmouth Museum is located at 765 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ 07738, on the campus of Brookdale Community College, located in parking lot #1 off Museum Drive.