Joan Anderson Letter Goes to Auction… Again

In 2014, the world of Beat Studies was rocked by the discovery of the Joan Anderson letter. Believed lost at sea until that point, the letter was the Holy Grail of our field. Its role in Beat history was considered by many as of key importance. Its influence on the literary style of Jack Kerouac was believed to be massive.  Continue Reading…

In the above video, Beatdom Books author John Tytell talks with Martin Torgoff, whose new book, Bop Apocalypse, explores jazz, drugs, and Beat literature.

Tytell is the author of The Beat Interviews and his next book, Beat Transnationalism, will be released later this year.

Buddhists and Dharma Bums

Sometime in the early 1950s, the Beat Generation helped bring Buddhism to the West, or at least they popularized it and expanded its influence. The world saw them as obscene hipsters who eschewed responsibility, but they viewed themselves as roamers of America and characters of a special spirituality.[1] At least for Kerouac and Ginsberg, Beat had a quasi-religious connotation.

Continue Reading…

The Flying Dutchman:

An Overview of LeRoi Jones’ Greatest Commentary on the Struggle of the Black Man and Racial Relations in Post-World War America

Before Amiri Baraka changed his name, he was LeRoi Jones: poet, playwright, and husband to Hettie Cohen, a white Jewish woman. Together LeRoi and Hettie edited the avant-garde literary magazine Yugen, which later published such literary icons as the Beat Generation’s Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. The couple’s relationship strained as Jones fell in with the ideology of Malcolm X, breaking away from the Beat Generation and into movements such as Black Nationalism and the Black Arts Movement. Baraka’s play Dutchman, written as LeRoi Jones, opened at Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City on March 24, 1964 to intriguing acclaim for an off-Broadway production. This initial production sparked the beginning of Baraka’s revolutionary immersion into Black Nationalism, political theatre, and the eventual name change from LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka. Dutchman examines race relations in post-World War America and also commentates on the relationship between white women and black men and the implicit stereotypes presented. Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman presents the suffering of the Black man in America in order to emphasize an illicit political agenda that caters to Black Nationalism. Continue Reading…

World Citizen: How Politics Shaped the Travels of Allen Ginsberg, and How Travel Shaped his Politics

This essay first appeared in Beatdom #17, which you can find on Amazon.

As a child, Allen Ginsberg didn’t get to travel much; however, that wasn’t particularly unusual. Although the motorcar was becoming popular with the middle classes around the time he was born, and would boom in popularity during his childhood, most travel was still conducted within a relatively short distance of the family home. Route 66 was established five months after Ginsberg’s birth, connecting Chicago with California, and making it possible for Americans to drive across the continent, but due to the Great Depression and World War II, intercity car travel actually decreased between 1930 and 1944. Great leaps in transportation were making the world a smaller place, but young Allen only travelled as far as Belmar Beach, in New Jersey during his childhood. His father, Louis, didn’t travel abroad until 1967 – 19 years after his son’s first steps on foreign soil.

How, then, did he end up becoming such a renowned traveler, visiting almost 60 countries and visiting every continent except Antarctica?[1] Continue Reading…

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…