It is generally agreed that writing in the United States went through an extraordinary period of regeneration in the 1960s because of a combination of political and social factors. The decade began with the election to president of John F. Kennedy, ushering in a very short-lived period of hope. Kennedy was of course assassinated in 1963, one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis almost plunged the world into nuclear war. During the presidencies of his successors, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, there was the war in Vietnam and widespread protests against it, the advent of the civil rights movement, the rise of black power, and an alarming increase in violent murder and gun crime throughout the decade.
All this contributed in various ways to a growing ‘counter-culture’, which had begun with the Beat generation in the 1950s, but now expanded to take in the ‘hippy’ movement, drug culture, bop and jazz events, ‘happenings’, and left-wing political rallies, and expressed a general suspicion about authority and official power, and a faith in the values of youth and spontaneity.
The spirit of the counter-culture is reflected in popular culture of the time such as music (e.g. The Beatles, Woodstock) and film (e.g. Easy Rider), but also pulses through ‘serious’ art, including literature. However, here we come to one of the odd things about this moment in US culture.