Archives For review

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: 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…

Review: Summer of Crud

Summer of Crud is a coming-of-age story that takes place on a road trip across America. It makes reference on a few occasions to the Beats and in fact appears to be an attempt to update Kerouac’s On the Road for the 21st century. However, while not a terrible novel, it certainly is no modern classic. 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…

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…

Review: Ambiguous Borderlands

In his new book, Ambiguous Borderlands: Shadow Imagery in Cold War American Culture, Dr. Erik Mortenson looks at the “paradox” of mid-twentieth century life in the United States, where there were unprecedented levels of comfort for many citizens, and yet the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. While people became wealthier than ever before, there came also a crushing pressure to conform or fit in with mainstream society. Mortenson argues, Continue Reading…

Review: The Ugly Spirit, by Steven La Vey

Steven La Vey’s The Ugly Spirit begins with a quote from William S. Burroughs, who also coined the term that give the book its title, “the ugly spirit”: Continue Reading…

Review: Paul Bunyan, by Larry Beckett

Larry Beckett is generally best-known as a songwriter, yet probably better known to Beatdom readers as the author of Beat Poetry – the first book entirely devoted to the poetry of the Beat Generation. Yet he has devoted much of his life to writing poetry, and earlier this year he released an impressive book called Paul Bunyan through Smokestack Books in the UK.

Paul Bunyan is part of Beckett’s American Cycle series of “long poems” concerning junctures in American history. In an interview with Shindig! Magazine, he explained:

When I started reading American literature, I looked around for its great narrative epic poem, and didn’t find it. So American Cycle is a sequence of long poems out of the American past: US Rivers: Highway 1, Old California, Paul Bunyan, Chief Joseph, Wyatt Earp, PT Barnum, Amelia Earhart, Blue Ridge, US Rivers: Route 66. I’ve been working on it for 45 years; I’m now doing research for the last section, John Henry. Each section is written in a form appropriate to its subject. Its themes are love, local mythology, history, justice, memory, accomplishment, time.

Continue Reading…