Archives For review

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: 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…