EFF co-founder, Grateful Dead lyricist and mayor of the internet John Perry Barlow died in February and left an unfillable hole.
Weeks before his death he and his co-author Robert Greenfield completed Mother American Night, his long-promised memoir. I just ordered a copy; I would have done that anyway, but Jesse Jarnow's Wired review made it clear that this is basically Barlow in paper form.
Breezy, connected by ceaselessly mind-blowing anecdotes, and bubbling over with psychedelic wisdom, Mother American Night will become the crucial document for understanding the life and work of the internet pioneer and Dead collaborator. The fun is infectious. He’s introducing Timothy Leary to the Grateful Dead! He’s working in Andy Warhol’s Factory! He’s taking acid with JFK Jr. and Daryl Hannah! He’s roasting Steve Jobs! He’s dating Anita Hill! It would be name-dropping if Barlow himself weren’t so fascinating and his observations so incisive.
“Steve [Jobs] made you care about what he thought of you, and even though you could pretend that you didn’t, you were kidding yourself,” Barlow writes. “It was a quality [Jerry] Garcia had as well,” Barlow muses, perhaps the only person on the planet qualified to draw those comparisons from personal experience. It was a life lived at scale.
Amid all the celebrity hobnobbing, Mother American Night remains resiliently idea-filled. A Wyoming cattle rancher, Barlow recalls his thrill at discovering the internet for the first time. “I had spent 15 years riding around the [ranch] thinking about [Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of a consciousness-created] noosphere, and suddenly after all that time, I had evidence this was not just Teilhard’s pipe dream but was in fact real and growing its own nervous system.”
The Ghost of John Perry Barlow Lives in His Posthumous Memoir [Jesse Jarnow/Wired]
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