On the Road with Ellison, Vol. 1

Harlan Ellison

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On the Road with Ellison, Vol. 1 Review

by Al Campbell

Fiction writer Harlan Ellison has been called the 20th century Lewis Carroll. He has written over 75 books and 1,000 short stories. His reputation is that of a brilliant mind with a sharp tongue; he does not suffer fools gladly. On the Road With Ellison, Vol. 1 follows the writer as he verbally attacks with gleeful abandon college students (and faculty) at institutions like the prestigious MIT. Even though these lectures were recorded in the early '80s, the topical references are held together by Ellison's timeless execution. The proceedings begin with a warning in which Ellison demands anyone who can't deal with commonly heard and used language to "get the f*ck out now!" From there, it's open season as Ellison breathlessly pounces and savages people/subjects including, but not limited to: dead gophers, elitists, revenge, student apathy, Ronald Reagan, UFOs, and those who mock Carl Sagan. The mood changes considerably, however, on the disc's final piece, which initially appeared in his L.A. Weekly column An Edge in My Voice. It is a poignant condemnation on the unnecessary killing of 60-year-old would-be terrorist Norman Maier. The common sense Ellison conjures concerning this particularly ugly American episode forces sympathy whether one agrees or not. Ellison is a true American in the best sense of that title. He's realistic, playful, funny, and abrasive, but most importantly, in the end, compassionate.

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