Saturday, September 3, 2011
Steppenwolf is maybe his best known novel, though at this point in time, it's hard to know if that's just well-known because so many people like the songs "Magic Carpet Ride" and "Born to be Wild," songs by the band Steppenwolf, both still mainstays of classic rock radio (and the latter, I just learned, the source of the phrase "heavy metal"). Those song titles, incidentally, seem perfectly in line with the Hesse's fascinations with man's complicated inner nature and with the wisdom of the East. What is fascinating is that Hesse's novel, growing out of his own history in early twentieth century Germany, should have so much resonance the mid-century American generation. Steppenwolf was, I read, Timothy Leary's favorite, and one guesses that Timothy Leary was popular among many who were reading Hesse in the 1960s and 1970s.