Archives For 2016

Review: The Best Minds of My Generation

There are so many books about the Beat Generation that focus on the writers’ roles as rebels and “literary outlaws,” who break with convention and reject all the old ways. They are portrayed as angry young men and outsiders in life and literature. This view is not entirely incorrect, but in The Best Minds of My Generation, a collection of Allen Ginsberg lectures edited into a coherent book form by Bill Morgan, we are presented with a very different view of the Beats. Continue Reading…

Hunter S. Thompson Translated into Chinese

In the past few months, we’ve brought you news about Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs being translated into Chinese. It may seem like a minor miracle that these authors’ works have been allowed to go on sale in this notoriously censorious country, yet it is even more unusual that Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-fueled escapades have been published for the Chinese market, too. Continue Reading…

How the Beats Influenced Today’s Literary Hipsters

The Beat Generation as a whole inhabits a polarized yet celebrated space in American literature. Writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs pursued lives of meaning and raw authenticity, and created art that defined their generation and changed American literature and culture. They found truth in the visceral and unapologetic prose poetry that they would eventually create. It is hard to define Beat literature, yet one can observe in the work of many Beat artists an absolute openness. The Beats shocked and appalled mainstream America and stuffy critics by saying what they felt and what they did without shame. Continue Reading…

Beats or Beatniks

In late 1969, reporter Jack McClintock interviewed beat author, Jack Kerouac, at his Florida home. In the interview they discussed a wide range of topics from Ginsberg to communism conspiracies to marijuana and ultimately ended with Kerouac making his famous declaration, “I’m a Catholic, not a beatnik!” [1]  The distinction between those completely separate ideologies are obvious, but the divisions between the labels “Beats” and “Beatnik” are not so clear to the non-fanatical.  Continue Reading…

Prophecy in Naked Lunch

Naked Lunch is the book that catapulted William S. Burroughs from a minor author and figure of interest in the wake of beatnik hysteria into a notorious and, eventually, respected postmodernist writer. His book shocked the literary world and continues to do so, despite having more or less become canon. It has had an immense impact upon literature, art, and music in the West, and famously won a court case to signal a shift away from repressive censorship in American law. It is also known, however, for its eerily accurate prophesies. Continue Reading…

Review: Bop Apocalypse

Martin Torgoff’s Bop Apocalypse (not to be confused with the similarly titled The Bop Apocalypse, by John Lardas) attempts to bring together the stories of drugs, jazz, racial identity, and Beat literature. It is a bold and fascinating book, which mostly succeeds in its aim. Continue Reading…

Famous Writers Who Didn’t Like Kerouac

Jack Kerouac was a huge inspiration for Bob Dylan, the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, and a host of other important writers and artists over the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His magnum opus, On the Road, was one of the most important cultural events in American history, spurring a revolution in literature and effectively creating a counterculture that would shape art and politics for decades to come. Yet Kerouac was not universally loved – in fact, even among his fellow writers, he was often disliked or disrespected. Continue Reading…

Review: Tales of Ordinary Sadness

Tales of Ordinary Sadness is a collection of fifteen short stories by Neil Randall, and its title is a reference to Charles Bukowski’s short story collection, Tales of Ordinary Madness. Sadness certainly is the theme of the collection, with each story acting as a study in the more depressing areas of modern life – this is a writer not afraid to deal with addiction, abuse, poverty, or disease. Randall provides an uncanny insight into the pitiful conditions of working class Britain in the twenty-first century, exploring how things got so bad. Continue Reading…

Turtle Island: An Eco-Critique of Capitalism

In the modern era the sustainability of both our daily lives and global systems has become an increasingly important issue. The world finds itself in sight of, and surpassing, certain “planetary boundaries” which mark the limits of a planet which will continue to be inhabitable by humans.[1] These boundaries include ocean acidification, climate change, and biodiversity loss, and they mark a complete break from planetary sustainability. Although personal choice and advancement in resource production may take some steps towards a sustainable future many critics have noted that the blame can be placed primarily on the dominant economic system, capitalism (Foster, 18). For this reason, among others, environmental concerns have increasingly entered into the political sphere. Continue Reading…

William S. Burroughs’ Chinese Covers

In the past few weeks we’ve brought you book covers from the Chinese translations of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.  While many were shocked to see how popular Kerouac has become in the notoriously censorious communist nation, few were surprised that Ginsberg’s work is harder to find – particularly in translation. Burroughs lies somewhere between the two – not nearly as popular as Kerouac, but a little more so than Ginsberg. This perhaps demonstrates that the barrier Ginsberg’s work may have faced in reaching a Chinese readership may not be due to homosexuality, drug use, or even profanity. As we can see below, Burroughs’ novels Naked Lunch and Queer have both been translated into Chinese, and are available on the Chinese version of Amazon. I believe Ginsberg’s politics were more likely the issue. Continue Reading…