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by Dirk Wittenborn

Published by Viking

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"I was born because a man came to kill my father."

William Friedrich, an ambitious professor of psychology at Yale in the early 1950s, has stumbled upon a drug that promises happiness -- and that can make him a famous man. His is a humanitarian effort; an attempt to relieve Americans of suffering, and the early results are so promising that Friedrich stakes his future on it. But when his experiment goes awry and a research subject, a brilliant and troubled Yale student, commits murder, the consequences will haunt him and his family forever.

Pharmakon, which in Greek means both "poison" and "cure," is an epic invocation of the quest for bliss, for love, for family and prosperity, and all of the betrayals that follow. Through the eyes of the youngest son, Zach, we follow the Friedrichs from the well-ordered suburban life of postwar America through the chaos and freedom of the counterculture into the drug-fueled, media-crazed eighties and beyond. In William Friedrich, Wittenborn has defined the archetypal American patriarch: a miracle worker and source of strength to everyone except those he loves the most. Honest, insightful, and ruefully funny, Pharmakon captures formative moments of the twentieth century and the telling traits of an American family. It is also a layered, thoughtful search behind the veil of psychopharmacology as we know it today -- a tale not only of the consequences of research, but the complex personalities, appetites, and struggles that created it.

pub date: 2008-07-08 | paperback | 9780670019427