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Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 947 KB
ISBN: 0552098086
ISBN 13: 9780552098083
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Reader ratings: 3.7
The author of the book: Max Ehrlich
Edition: Bantam Books
Date of issue: 1975

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Reincarnation of Peter Proud by Max Simon Ehrlich
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Some books are great because they capture a story, others a place, and others a time. Max Ehrlich's Reincarnation of Peter Proud is a great snapshot of the early 70's, with the "trippy" 60's still reverberating and morphing into burgeoning New Age movement. At least, that's how it feels. I wasn't there, so I really don't know. The closest I can get is the TV, movies, and book like the Reincarnation of Peter Proud, which feels like it fits right in with other snapshot/era movies, despite it really just wanting to be a supernatural thriller.

The zeitgeist was a kind of naivete of possibility. The concept of reincarnation is, of course, 1000s of years old, but such new age concepts were on the rise (Once again. See 1920s). It seemed like there was a time, after the age of the atom and going to the moon that opened us up to the reality that there was much more out there than we can imagine. The universe is a vast and unknowable place. Only 50% of what I'm saying is horseshit. I'm not suggesting that any era can be reduced to some quantifiable units. This book just flows nicely in a vein that I think of as 1970s Supernatural Materialism (ha!). Movies and books and even political philosophies of the time (radical militant "Marxists": Germany's Bader-Meinhof, Japan's United Red Army, America's various groups that were painted as such, like the Weatherman, the Black Panthers; see: Network) used materialism to take a sober look at fringe ideas. In these works, there's often some fringe scientist who calls himself a parapsychologist, or ectoplasmic technician or some such title to legitimize his/her efforts. See: The Dead Zone, The Fury, The Exorcist II, (this continued into the 80's with Firestarter, The Entity, and Poltergeist ). Mix with a healthy portion of supernatural horror: Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen . Now enter Max Ehrlich with the Reincarnation of Peter Proud: boom! Bestseller.

The great thing about this era is that it's not now. There's not 25 shows on the Sci-Fi Channel (SyFy, Sci-Fie, whatever) all about ghosthunters who have yet to record even one second of ghostly or unexplained phenomenon; there's not youtube with 100 man years of CCTV footage of bugs mistaken for ghosts. I'm not saying there are no ghosts. I'm not saying that there's no unexplained, or demons, or afterlife. What I'm saying is that there is a lack of any evidence for ESP and other phenomenon which has pushed most of those ideas further into Fringe/Pseudos-Science territory, a dearth which didn't exist in the early 70s. The 60s just happened and mainstream America was openly talking about psychedelics, drugs, and alternative lifestyles for the second time (see: early American utopian communes, at least about lifestyles).

I don't know if Ehrlich captured it or contributed to it, but his adequate book went bestseller and then onto Hollywood, and is going on to be another Hollywood film (directed by David Fincher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker, both of whom brought us Se7en; there's plenty of dark potential in the book that Ehrlick didn't explore than Fincher could really capitalize upon). The book is an enjoyable 70s romp, though I never really connected with the main character. For one, this book really doesn't have any Peril until the end. There's some interesting cultural exploration of Native American dream therapy ( ondinnok ), though it was introduced early, dropped, and then picked up at the end. Most of the book is just following Pete around as he investigates his dreams so that he can sleep better at night. There's some grandiose talk of prophets and such, but mostly it's just Pete bumping around, his life, but for lack of sleep, pretty fucking absolutely unchallenged and fine. Ehrlich is a good enough writer that he's able to maintain an audience. The most interesting thing to me, besides the 70's New Age zeitgeist, was his investigation pre-internet! (Yes, yes, I know: ARPANET: 60s). That was the most entertaining part of the story. There's a part where he sees something on TV and he has to actually call the TV station, from a landline! Then he has to meet with the producer, in the flesh! Wristwatch on his wrist and telephones that plug into the wall. Craziness.

Like I said, this book wanted to be a supernatural thriller or some kind of exploration of the spirituality of reincarnation (these topics are lightly brushed upon, but there's no depth), but there's no real connection with his past lives or even his future. He's a bit of a cypher, especially with his aspirations and his personal interests (beyond Native Americans; there's a fleeting reference to how he's a serious symphony buff, which isn't mentioned until the last quarter of the book).

All that being said, I enjoyed reading Peter Proud. It could have been a bit shorter. Frankly, it's not much more than a twilight zone special, with some nice twists. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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