By Mike Koetting August 12, 2018
This a special edition of my blog, featuring my book You Must Choose Now. You Must Choose Now is the story of my adventures in the Sixties—which I define as the period from the Gulf of Tokin Resolution to Nixon’s resignation. Much of those adventures were of course unique to me. But many of them were part of a broader cultural shift and the easiest way for me to write about that was through the lens of my own experience.
It’s fair to say I thoroughly participated in the events of the Sixties—I was an activist, got my head busted in Chicago, lived in a commune, fell in love a couple times, had my heart broken, and smoked a little dope. But by the same token, I was a serious student, never declared war on America and generally was much less “far out” than the collective memory of the times would suggest—a collective memory that was too much shaped by the outliers.
To me, this is the most important part of the story: not everyone who made the Sixties what they were got on the cover of Life. Many of us just went about our lives making choices—some easy, some difficult—and when the smoke cleared, America was very different. Another important part of the story is linked to the reasons we made those choices. The Sixties were not just a collection of activities—it was a set of choices linked to deliberate decisions about what values to pursue. I believe those values continue to motivate the Sixties alumni—although the country has gotten less friendly to those values, in part a reaction to the Sixties themselves. This irony is part of the story explored in the book.
In any event, if you are interested in the Sixties, I think this book is worth a look—whether it is because you enjoy reliving those days in your mind or because you’re curious about why that one decade had such an out-sized impact on the country.
I would love for all of you to buy this book. I think it tells an important story about that time and how it feels when we look back across 50 years. But I offer a significant caveat. I haven’t a clue if the book is any good.
You see, this is a self-published book. There are many advantages to self-publishing, but one of the biggest disadvantages is that no one has given it a dispassionate reading and said: “Yeah, this is good enough that we’ll put some money into it.” Indeed, all the incentives are geared toward convincing you that you should publish it, meritorious or otherwise.
So in asking you to buy it, I’m really flying kind of blind. I am confident it’s not illiterate or anything like that. And I am sure at least some of the stories are mildly interesting. But I have nothing to say about whether it’s worth your money, let alone spending your time on it. It could be completely boring to anyone who isn’t me. Maybe after a couple of you read it and report back, I’ll have a better sense if it’s something that really is of broader interest, or it’s just a vanity project of modest interest to a small circle of friends. If the latter, that’s okay. In fact, that’s the big advantage of self-publishing. I can put it in print and see what people say. And if the verdict is less than enthusiastic, no one loses a bunch of money and I still have a book my grandson can read to understand a little about Grandpa. (Although, for sure, not till he’s older!)
If you’re willing to take a plunge, it’s as easy as getting any other book. It’s available in both e-format and paperback on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you are searching there, you may have to provide a little more information than usual (e.g. title and author) and maybe remind them it’s a book. I suspect your local bookstore could also track down a copy for you without much trouble…but I can’t guarantee that. If you have trouble or questions, drop me a note. I want to know how this works and my publisher, Gatekeeper Press, promises to help troubleshoot.
If you do like it, tell some friends, get your book club to read it, etc. There’s no chance I’ll make any money on this, but like anyone who thinks he has a story to tell, I want people to hear it.
A final thought. Recently I got together with several of the people who are significant figures in this book. We met up in Denver, where we all had lived in the Josephine Street Commune. While waiting for folks to converge, I ducked into the Colorado History Museum. I was struck by this paragraph, which concluded their introduction to one of the exhibits:
Preserving our history is an act of shaping our future. History’s stories reflect the ideas, achievements, and challenges that have defined us today. If we listen, they can help us decide who we want to become tomorrow.
I don’t know how well my book does the above, but that’s what I was trying to do.