The Eden Express is prefaced: "The author maintains that all people, places, and events in this book are real and that he has depicted them accurately to the best of his ability. Before drawing conclusions, however the reader is cautioned to bear in mind the fact that the author has spent considerable time mentally unbalanced."
The memoir covers, among other subjects, Vonnegut's periods of mental illness and institutionalization, interwoven with his initiation of a commune in one of the remote parts of British Columbia. The time frame of the book is the late 1960s and early 1970s, along with plenty of references to such things as "The Revolution," "grass," the I Ching, Charlie Manson, Richard Nixon, and so on. In that era, leaving contemporary and conventional life to pursue truth in the backwoods was viewed as a suitable reaction to a culture of insanity. Vonnegut starts by interpreting mental illness with reference to the questionable theories of R.D. Laing, in which schizophrenia was seen as a valid response to a deranged world. Toward the end of the work, he embraces a more modern view of mental illness as biochemical in nature, as he begins to recover. His writing in places is short on descriptive power. There is a use of cliches, as with terms such as "passed with flying colors" (which is used not once, but twice close together).
In reviews of memoirs, one statement often appears: Something to the effect of, this memoir is good, it avoids self-pity. The Eden Express has a sort of hippie self-pity about it, but hey, what's wrong with a little self-pity once in a while? The book is effective both for chronicling a previous time and for its numinously intense and disordered accounts of mental illness.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is one of the best fictional works about seagulls that I have read. While Bach's style lacks literary qualities, and he is too obviously drawing on aeroplane flight maneuvers for his seagull acrobatics, the book is still a tolerable parable about spirituality and the Bodhisattva idea.