At the dark end of the 1960s, a young poet is launched on a bizarre odyssey that leads him from the ill-fated gathering of rock-and-roll tribes at Altamont through San Francisco City Prison to various psychiatric hospitals up and down California in search of his role in the Revolution. An anti-nostalgic, at times terrifying, often comical exploration of a period largely misremembered in the collective imagination, this picaresque narrative is a vivid evocation of a tumultuous moment in American cultural history, an intimate account of acute psychosis, and an archetypal tale of artistic initiation.

To read part one of an interview with Stephen Kessler by Zara Raab for the San Francisco Book Review, click here.

To read part two of an interview with Stephen Kessler by Zara Raab for the San Francisco Book Review, click here.

“The experience of a mental breakdown has not, to my knowledge, been narrated before with this level of philosophical or poetic insight....  Kessler’s novel is both a powerful journey and a cultural landmark that deserves wide recognition and acclaim.” —Valerie Ross , The Redwood Coast Review
(to read the complete review please click here.)

“There’s no miraculous coming of age here. No pat answer, quirky minimalism or self-indulgent dream sequences. It’s about the story, plainly told. For readers like me from the East Coast who were children during the Vietnam War era, this novel offers a close, uncompromising look at a specific time and place, and a universal examination of one artist’s sojourn into fragile self-awareness.” —John Flynn, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
(to read the review please see

“As Stephen’s obsessions increasingly consume him, the reader is drenched in the cataclysms of maniacal internal and spoken rantings bejeweled with exquisite observations and beautiful ironies.... The voice becomes a voice in your own head, mesmerizing, licking your temples, drawing you into the words, carried by words into unfamiliar and dangerous ideas. The music it creates is heartbreakingly funny and gloriously cruel, with just enough glimmers of crazy wisdom to make you hold on, gasping, and just in time to bring you back to the arc of the story.” —Maureen Davidson, Santa Cruz Weekly

(to read the review please see

I travel'd thro' a Land of Men,
A Land of Men & Women too,
And heard & saw such dreadful things
As cold Earth wanderers never knew.

—William Blake

Your sons dream they have been lost in kinky hair,
no one can find them,
neighbors walk shoulder to shoulder for three days.
And your sons are lost in the immense forest.

—Robert Bly

“A harrowing, heart-rending odyssey…an intelligent, coherent novel of the sixties, and beyond.” —Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart

“Essential reading for anyone who wonders how this generation’s most interesting poets and maniacs got that way.” —Carolyn Cooke, author of The Bostons

“Hectic, desperate, lyrical and inspired…a fascinating journey.” —Diana O’Hehir, author of I Wish This War Were Over

The Mental Traveler
Greenhouse Review Press, $18.
Available throughSmall Press Distribution.

Photo: Solle Ayres (1971)
info@stephenkessler.comCopyright © 2007-2013 Stephen Kessler