Archives For Reviews

Reviews from Beatdom.

Beyond Jazz: Kerouac and Music

The links between the Beat Generation and music seem obvious, and many of them have been pretty thoroughly explored. Ginsberg befriended and worked with Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Mick Jagger, while Burroughs coined the phrase “heavy metal” in addition to his own collaborations with people like Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits. But what about Jack Kerouac? Continue Reading…

Women Writers of the Beat Era: A Review

In Women Writers of the Beat Era: Autobiography and Intertextuality, Mary Paniccia Carden argues that although the most famous writers of the Beat Generation rejected traditional values, they very much embraced the sexism that pervaded the wider culture. Her thesis is that women did in fact contribute greatly to the Beat movement (which she says is not a generation) but were marginalized and then later forgotten. In her new book, she seeks to address that, shining a light on several important women and their work. Continue Reading…

Ginsberg Goes Behind Enemy Lines: A Review of Iron Curtain Journals

In 1965, Allen Ginsberg jumped at the chance to peek behind enemy lines with a visit to communist Cuba. He was only asked to judge a literary competition, but his trip was expanded time and again due to bizarre complications, meaning that he instead visited Mexico, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Poland, England, and Paris, before finally returning home some six months later. In Iron Curtain Journals: January-May 1965, Michael Schumacher (author of Dharma Lion) has collected Ginsberg’s notes, poems, and dream journals into a valuable resource for Beat enthusiasts. Continue Reading…

Angry Young Men Become Nice Old Men: A Review of Don’t Hide the Madness

In March, 1992, Allen Ginsberg visited his old friend, William S. Burroughs, at his home in Lawrence, Kansas. He recorded ten ninety-minute cassette tapes of conversation for his long-time musical collaborator, Steven Taylor, to transcribe. The purpose was to gather suitable material for a short article. However, a few decades later the tapes surfaced once again and Taylor decided that the result warranted its own book. Continue Reading…

The Revised Boy Scout Manual: Burroughs on Fake News and Scientology

Ohio State University Press has recently published a “lost masterpiece” by William S. Burroughs, called “The Revised Boy Scout Manual”: An Electronic Revolution. This book is not exactly a “lost” piece of writing in the truest sense; rather, it has been put together from various sources, many of which actually have been previously available to the public. (Indeed, the process of putting this short book together was complicated enough to necessitate a lengthy explanation as part of the book’s foreword.) The result is an interesting and rather familiar text, valuable to Burroughs scholars and fans, but probably not a “masterpiece” like Burroughs’ novels. What it is is a heavily annotated guide to everything that interested the author in the late sixties and early seventies – Scientology, Mayan codices, cutups, tape recorders, the concept of language as a virus, and much more. Continue Reading…

Review: Translating the Counterculture

Erik Mortenson’s Translating the Counterculture: The Reception of the Beats in Turkey examines the way the Beat Generation is taught, enjoyed, understood, and translated in Turkey, where he lived and worked for many years. Continue Reading…

After Me, The Deluge: Considering Kerouac’s Final Statement

An artistic and introverted spirit, Jack Kerouac never set out to become the leader of one of the greatest literary movements of the 20th century. He only wished to achieve his own sense of enlightenment and share his journey with his friends, hoping to help them achieve their own form of enlightenment by expressing their truths through fiction and poetry. However, as news of his radical novel, On the Road, spread like wildfire through the nation, Kerouac was thrust into the spotlight as the poster boy for the Beat Generation and the counterculture movement it spawned. As he grew older, Kerouac became jaded and reclusive, rejecting many would-be counterculture artists and writers who cited him as an inspiration for their own works. His final essay, “After Me, the Deluge”, was a sarcastic, biting piece that best expressed his feelings of resentment and disgust towards the “hippie-yippie” lifestyle that was becoming popular among the youth. Although the long-winded sentences and provocative vernacular were consistent with Kerouac’s earlier writings, the acerbic tone and disdainful jeers, as well as the clear lack of interest in the Beat movement that he had once so zealously championed, weakened the message of “After Me, the Deluge” and made it a poor close to his literary career. Continue Reading…

Review: Hip Sublime

It always amazes me that after so many decades of scholarship, there is always a new way of looking at the Beat Generation. In Hip Sublime: Beat Writers and the Classical Tradition, Sheila Murnaghan and Ralph M. Rosen have collected a dozen essays examining the relationship between the Beats and Greco-Roman classicism. These look at Beat writers like Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Corso, as well as the post-Beat Charles Olson and Diane di Prima, and the loosely affiliated Charles Bukowski, among others. Notable contributors include Christopher Gair, Jennie Skerl, Nancy M. Grace, and Tony Trigilio. Continue Reading…

Review: First Thought

First Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg, edited by Michael Schumacher, is not the first collection of interviews with Allen Ginsberg, but it is in some respect the best. It is a slim edition, carefully selected from the inconceivably vast archive of interviews, to show Allen at his very best. As Schumacher points out in his introduction (and as a great many others have observed) Allen viewed the interview as an art form, just like his poems. He was generous with his interviewers, yet firm. He pushed them to give their best, and he always gave his. (Throughout the book, there are weak interviewers but Ginsberg is never off-form.) Mistakes rankled him, and he made efforts to ensure every interview he gave went to print without misrepresenting his ideas.   Continue Reading…

Review: I Am The Revolutionary

Paul Maher Jr has written an intimate, interesting look at the life of Jack Kerouac – not the whole life, but rather the youth, leading up to the publication of his most famous work, On the Road. I Am the Revolutionary begins in the 1700s with some family history, carries us through his childhood, education, and travels, and ends with Jack picking up the newspaper that changed his life – the one containing Gilbert Millstein’s review of On the Road. In short, it is the story of how Jack Kerouac became Jack Kerouac, the author still known today as King of the Beats, whose novels sent millions of kids on the road, and whose voice has inspired poets, novelists, and musicians for more than a half century. Continue Reading…