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Review of Stained Glass Rain by Bruce Boston, Ocean View Books

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.... There are two ways of remembering the fabled 1960s. One way is to recall it as a time of gentle psychedelia when sex was free and beautiful and a spiritual renaissance was floating in the air like so many drifting butterflies. The rival version remembers the 60s as a time of chaos, race riots, protests, a bloody, senseless war and government expanding its powers as never before.

Neither of these extreme versions of the time is completely true. They provide only aspects of the totality. The race riots occurred at the same time gentle hippies were spreading the word about LSD. The war went on while people explored the possibilities of sexuality. These were separate and simultaneous trends in the same society. Only in rare cases, as with Charlie Manson, did these societal forces seem to join hands.

In his novel Stained Glass Rain poet Bruce Boston offers us a poet's view of the 1960s. (Two of his characters, in fact, write poetry, some of which is included in the text.) The story focuses on four young people in the counter-culture as they explore drugs, sex and other pleasurable temptations of contemporary society. Boston presents their story of personal transformation in a rambling, easy-going manner, moving from straight narrative to journal entries to drama to letters and back again.

Unlike so many other novels of the 1960s, Stained Glass Rain is a pleasant read--reminiscent of Robert Nathan's charming novels--and filled with soft light and conversation and gentle feeling. It contains no self-righteous diatribes, no radical alarmism, no holier-than-thou putdowns. It is, in short, not a typical novel of the 1960s at all but a refreshing story of coming of age, learning that change is a constant both within and without, and finding clues to the secret self we each contain.

Boston's poetic sensibilities color the narrative so that time and again the reader pauses to savor a phrase here, a description there. (Contrast this with the in-your-face shouting of the 90s and his approach seems almost old-fashioned.) Not many people came through the 60s with that lyrical ability intact. Boston has, and in Stained Glass Rain he uses that lyricism to shape his memories into a moving work of art.

--Thomas Wiloch