When you switch on your TV, chances are you’ll not find much about the Beat Generation, save for the passing references in programmes about The Beatles. And when you hit your local bookshop, you’ll maybe find one copy of On The Road and one of The Naked Lunch. But the internet lives up to its reputation of having a little of everything, for good or for ill. Everyone is free to surf the net, and to post messages, and to set up websites… And Beat fans are no different. Beat fans may not make not make up the required numbers to dominate the idiot-box or the big-name bookstores, but we are numerous and dedicated enough to create for ourselves an impressive array of websites and online resources relating to all manner of Beat Generation interests.
And it is important to remember that Beat websites are very often the products of the minds of Beat fans, and not of big corporations and publishing companies (like with many modern writers). These sites are often poorly made and break innumerable copyright laws, but the love is evident, and testament to the fantastic freedom of the internet, something one could hypothesize the Beats would have taken great interest in had they emerged 50 yrs on… So thank you democratic internet, with your geocites and members.aol and your MySpaces and so on…
The rise of the internet and of the power of the reader through such methods of interaction, thus eliminates much of the institutionalised scholarly interpretations from Beat studies. Now we have every kid who’s read On The Road posting their interpretation on messageboards and chat rooms and Bebo pages… Ok, I’m a fan of the tradition book-based, heavy-going, stuffy and pretentious, room-full-of-old-men kind of literary forum, but I can sure appreciate the value of an intellectual open market. I guess that’s my up-bringing, though – four years of Literature at university, but in a world of wireless broadband and eBay shopping.
So, with all that in mind, I present to you a collection of online Beat Generation websites. They’re a mixed bunch, so I won’t try and summarize them for you under some umbrella description.
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The Allen Ginsberg Trust
Found @ www.allenginsberg.org
The Allen Ginsberg Trust was established prior to the poet’s death to deal with the usual problems emerging from death, such as taxes and memorials. But the Trust also helps share Ginsberg’s work and resources pertaining to his work and his life. They also publish his work from time to time, and continue and initiate projects based on Ginsberg’s literary interests.
The website is basically the Official Allen Ginsberg Website, although they don’t state this so bluntly. And Ginsberg apparently said when founding the Trust, that it wasn’t founded to ‘make a museum out of me.’ And, I suppose, his vision has been not realised. A museum, it most certainly is.
The website handles news relating to the poet, such as DVD and book releases, links to other Beat websites, reviews of Ginsberg-themed books, a library of online materials, and a simple lifeline of events.
Most interesting to me was the collection of PDF manuscripts, including Things I’ll Not Do, written days before Ginsberg’s death.
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The Beat Page
Found @ www.rooknet.com/beatpage
The best Beat resource on the net? In my opinion, yes. Why? Because it has a little of everything. There are sites out there with more information, more poems, more pictures… but The Beat Page has a simple and impressive range of pages to browse.
There are twenty seven Beat writer biographies as I write this, and a few other pieces of information linking Beats to books, films and religions. Each writer’s bio is accompanied by a selection of excerpts from their work.
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Jack Kerouac’s San Francisco Blue Neon Alley
Found @ www.neonalley.org
I like the name.
I like the content.
I don’t like the layout.
This is a cheap looking site… But not cheap in the gaudy and free-wheelin’ Kerouac style. Rather it seems the work a well-versed fan with no computer skills. Crude flashing neon banners and low-resolution motel signs make some form of heading, and random and unorganised, though entertaining quotes follow.
There are many valued links and interesting resources, but it’s all so damn lost in the badly made pages that the site loses much of its purpose.
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The Museum of Beat Art
Found @ www.beatmuseum.org
A simply magnificent triumph of a website. The start and end of Beat information on the internet, with a host of resources and links. Make this baby your homepage and be constantly updated with anything new that crops up, and learn about a rotating list of random Beat artists old and new.
The website divides its space between writers and visual artists, reminding us that the written words wasn’t the only outlet for Beat artists.
An impressive range of writers and artists are listed on the left hand side of the homepage, linking to in-depth biographies and further links of interests relating to the chosen subject.
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The Beat Museum
Found @ www.thebeatmuseum.org
Note the subtle difference between the urls of this site the previous one. Both sites are well laid out and Beat-o-centric, but they’re pretty different.
The Museum of Beat Art is an online collection of Beat material – mainly photographs – while The Beat Museum is more of a guide to the whereabouts and events surrounding a physical presence – An actual Beat Museum of sorts.
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Found @ www.litkicks.com
Lit Kicks is a website that tries to prove reading isn’t about relaxing, but rather getting enthusiastic about a book. Consequently, although the site isn’t strictly a Beat one, it focuses perhaps more on the Beat Generation than any other writer or group of writers.
It isn’t the easiest site to navigate around, being more of a blog and a discussion board than anything, but if you look hard enough, you can find plenty of decent biographical information.
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Found @ www.ubu.com
Again, not strictly a Beat website. If fact, not really a Beat website at all. But it’s a great resource for Beat enthusiasts.
UBUWEB is a collection of media resources that relate to literature, and because sound and video recordings ain’t so old, most of the resources tend to relate to literature of the last half-century. Consequently, figures like Ginsberg and Burroughs, who thoroughly embraced new technologies in furthering their own work, are well represented.
A number of recordings of Beat figures are available for free download. Most feature poetry recitals and debate. There are also films, such as interviews and short film excerpts.
Found @ www.writing.upenn.edu
PENNSounds is very similar to UBUWEB – both being collections of literary related media files. But this website focuses on contemporary writers, with fewer Beat resources.
However, the Allen Ginsberg selection alone makes it worth mention. There are two Ginsberg readings from the 50s and one from 1995. There is also a copy of a record made by Ginsberg (with Orlovsky) in 1969, and released in 1970, of him singing Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. It’s truly awful, but awesome at the same time.
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Modern American Poetry
Found @ www.english.uiuc.edu
This website offers excerpts from scholarly texts for a number of modern American poets. Included in this list are Ginsberg, Corso, Kaufman, Rexroth and Snyder.
The studies include biographical notes and critical interpretations of the poets’ works. This is heavy-going at times, but unrivalled in quality and reliability.
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Found @ www.kerouac.com
Amazon and eBay probably have more Beat stuff kicking about, but Kerouac.com has it all in the one place. You wouldn’t expect it from the Kerouac site, but all that’s here is a collection of things to buy. Sad, yes. But useful nonetheless.
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Found @ http://members.aol.com/gethep/
I found this website when researching the Bob Kaufman feature for this issue of Beatdom. Evidently, this collection of ‘Resources for a New Beat Generation’ takes its name from Bob Kaufman and Allen Ginsberg’s attempt at a Beat magazine, called Beatitude.
Beatitude in this case is a very simple but elegant website, offering a range of obscure trivia, quotes, articles, historical resources, and excerpts from Beat Generation texts. There’s quite a bit here, and the site is definitely worth bookmarking.
And just to add one more paragraph for promotional purposes, because I firmly believe in advertising worthwhile causes for free, I will mention that as visited on 05/08/07 Beatitude only has 7770 hits… And it deserves more.
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Found @ www.beatbooks.com
Like eBay for the counterculture, Beat Books is a swap-meet of literature, magazines and posters from the 50s, 60s and 70s. It’s not the most impressively designed website, but a good idea, and practical, too. There’s a whole lot of stuff for sale, if you can find it.