Outsider's Reverie

Preface to Outsider's Reverie


[Following is the preface to my memoir, Outsider's Reverie.  It can be purchased from Amazon.com.  $10.95 for paperback, $9.95 for the Kindle edition.]


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This project was first suggested by my friend Joseph Soares, now at Wake Forest University, more than twenty years ago. His reasoning was that it would provide an example of a life path far from the money-centered conventionality of the 1950s in which I grew up and might prove helpful, both for its positive insights and its negative ones, to some young people considering alternatives to the commercial mainstream. The idea lay fallow for a long time. Then in the spring of 2008 another old friend, Peter Camejo, called to ask if I would serve as editor of his memoirs. I had known Peter when we were both active in the Marxist movement in the 1960s and 1970s. He in later years ran for governor of California, three times on the Green Party ticket, and served as Ralph Nader's vice presidential running mate in the 2004 presidential elections.


I worked closely with Peter from April 2008 to his untimely death that September. His book, North Star, is slated for publication early in 2010 by Haymarket Books. Working on his manuscript led me to think I should take more seriously composing my own. This book is the consequence.


I spent the majority of my life absorbed by subterranean currents far from the American mainstream. That is not to say these were not venerable schools of thought of some antiquity that exerted influence on the broader culture. I grew up in a home steeped in what is called the Western hermetic tradition, the largely pre-Christian lore of ghostly apparitions, spirit guides, star charts, and the astral plane. An unseen personage my parents spoke of frequently was the dead thirteenth century crusader knight Father Randall, who had personally instructed them in the arcane mysteries before I was born.
In high school in the 1950s, under the influence of Colin Wilson's The Outsider, I decided to renounce any conventional career and commit myself to an esoteric quest for mystic experience, rather like the hero of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge. I explored the doctrines of Gnosticism, the Hellenic mystery religion, visited the coffee houses of the Beats, and, following the example of Aldous Huxley, experimented with peyote.

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Comments on Outsider's Reverie

A fascinating tale about a radical youth, the 1960s, and the decline of the Socialist Workers Party into a bizarre cult.

The first seven chapters wonderfully capture  Los Angeles and the 1950s and early 1960s youth counterculture there. . . .Evans' memoir has wonderful chapters about Evans' time at Los Angeles City College participating in the civil rights movement and coffee house scene around LACC and then his recruitment into the youth group of the Socialist Workers Party, the dominant U.S.  Trotskyite party and then being a left organizer at UCLA. . . .  These Los Angeles chapters beautifully capture the outsider currents among Los Angeles youth in the 1950s and early 1960s including meeting older radicals from the 1930s.


The heart of this book is Evans' 22 years in the Socialist Workers Party, starting in Los Angeles and then over a decade and half in New York during the SWP's glory years when it was central to mobilizing huge numbers in the anti-Vietnam War marches. . . .


Evans describes a fascinating tale how he was a miner/organizer of SWP; the 12 activists valiantly tried but failed to support miners' union dissidents while their party began expulsions of dissidents to the new party line.  Evans realized that when the miners' faced huge layoffs the SWP on the Iron Range was a failure at doing anything to stop the layoffs. Evans as a dissident was more and more isolated.


Finally he moved back to Los Angeles where he and many others were formally expelled in bizarre trials. . . . Evans, always a  boy from the streets with survival skills, hooks up with an old girlfriend who becomes the love of his life and gets himself into graduate school at UCLA in sociology where he encounters Max Weber and ceased being a Marxist by 1988.

--Julia Stein, the Red Room blog

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Publisher's Press Release on Outsider's Reverie


Outsider's Reverie: A Memoir by Leslie Evans
488 pp, trade paperback, $10.95
30 pages of photographs, index

Available from Amazon.com

An ever surprising account of a life on the spiritual and political margins. Leslie Evans' parents were occultists, downwardly mobile outcasts from their families, one Christian, the other Jewish. His father, a failed salesman reminiscent of Willie Loman, had also been a professional astrologer who was forever on the lookout for quick roads to enlightenment or a deal that would make him rich, including buying a gold mine in the Arizona mountains. Evans childhood in the late 1940s and early 1950s was filled with accounts of the astral plane and of Father Randall, the dead thirteenth century crusader and spirit guide who had been a major figure in his parent's lives.

Read more: Publisher's Press Release on Outsider's Reverie