Archives For Essays

Essays from the magazine.

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…

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…

Ginsberg and the Machinery of Capitalism: A Political Reading of Howl

In this essay, I use a Marxist lens to examine Allen Ginsberg’s controversial and groundbreaking 1956 poem, Howl. Ginsberg, I argue, was surprisingly sensitive to the politics of class in this poem, setting up a dual class system which divided those who were part of Moloch from the “angelheaded hipsters,” who I argue were analogous to Marx’s proletariat. Ginsberg imagined himself as a revolutionary leader for the class of people oppressed by Moloch, who, like Marx’s proletariat, were working together towards the goal of a political revolution. Ginsberg’s angelheaded hipsters were oppressed by Moloch, Ginsberg’s trope for the machinery of Capitalism, which I explore along two political axes: sexual conformity and psychiatry. Continue Reading…

The Road Is Less Free

End of the summer and we hit the road to drive two hundred and fifty miles north: 287, 684, 84, 90, 290, 495 . . . if you know the roads, you know what I’m writing about. If you don’t, it’s all pretty much the same, not much to see, and there’s been a drought so the landscape is dry.

Continue Reading…

A psychoanalytic perspective on Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish (1961)

 

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, 

      While I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich 

      Village.

downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up

     all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud

     listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the phono-

     graph

the rhythm the rhythm – and your memory in my head three 

     years after – And read Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas 

     aloud – wept, realizing how we suffer – Continue Reading…

Harold Norse­– Brooklyn’s Bastard Angel

Though largely overlooked in the study of Beat literature, Harold Norse remains a potent and prophetic figure in Twentieth Century poetics. As this year marks the centennial of his birth (July 6, 1916), it’s a fitting time to look back at the Bastard Angel from Brooklyn. The focus of politics in this issue of Beatdom offers a unique opportunity to examine Norse’s examine Norse’s life and poetry through the lens of his experience as an illegitimate child and a queer. Continue Reading…

The Politics of the Wild Boys

In anticipation of Beatdom #17 – the POLITICS issue – we’re releasing this one-off free PDF download of The Politics of the Wild Boys, in which David Depestel explores the complex politics in some of William S. Burroughs’ best books. Continue Reading…

The Complicated Politics of the Beat Triumvirate

There is much about the Beat Generation that is shrouded in confusion. Oftentimes it stems from wishful thinking on the part of Beat scholars and readers, and sometimes it emerges from the haze between the myths the Beats themselves created and their own reality. Partly, though, the confusion arises from the simple fact that the politics of the three best-known Beat Generation authors was in fact rather complicated, and no amount of simplification can detract from that fact. Allen Ginsberg was the face of the left for much of the late twentieth century, but was he was also critical of much of the left. Jack Kerouac was the hero of the left in the sixties, yet his personal politics then veered hard right. And William S. Burroughs… Well, his ideas concerning politics involve space travel, engrams, and word viruses. Continue Reading…

John Clellon Holmes’ Existentialist Dilemma

In her essay, “John Clellon Holmes and Existentialism”, Ann Charters leaves the reader with a question:  To the degree that Holmes’ thought was influenced by existentialism, was he closer to the position of Sartre or Kierkegaard?  The main theme of this essay is to answer the question we are left with after reading Charter’s discussion of Holmes’ existentialism. (1) Continue Reading…

Here To Go & Back Again: The Lives & Arts of Brion Gysin

If Brion Gysin had not existed, it probably would have been necessary to invent him, as the saying goes. Pre-eminent multimedia psychedelic shaman of the latter-half of the Twentieth Century, Gysin was something of a jack-of-all-trades: Artist, Calligrapher, Entrepreneur, Kinetic Sculptor, Novelist, Performance Artist, Photographer, Poet, Raconteur, Restaurateur, and Traveller in This-and-Other Worlds. Brion did it All. And even a brief list of the names he crossed paths with sounds like a veritable Who’s Who: Laurie Anderson, Francis Bacon, David Bowie, Paul Bowles, Ira Cohen, Ornette Coleman, Max Ernst, Marianne Faithfull, Leonor Fini, Jean Genet, Keith Haring, Billie Holliday, Brian Jones, Timothy Leary, Iggy Pop, Genesis P-Orridge, Patti Smith, Gore Vidal – and, of course, his long-term friend and collaborator, William Burroughs – are among the friends, fellow-travellers and sometimes collaborators that have spoken of their admiration for the Man and his Work. As his biographer, John Geiger, wrote:

Continue Reading…