In recent years, there has been a flurry of new beat books published about the writers and artists of the Beat Generation. Thankfully, it looks like 2019 is shaping up to be another wonderful year for Beat Studies, with many interesting texts lined up (or already available) about the men and women of the Beat Generation, taking various new perspectives to bring a fresh approach to the field. There are also a couple of re-releases to check out as well.
Let’s look at some of the books about or related to the Beat Generation in 2019, which I have attempted to put in order of publication date. (Also, please keep in mind that these are just the English language publications.)
Beat: The Latter Days of the Beat Generation, by Andy Clausen
The beat books was actually published last year, but the audiobook version was released in 2019, so let’s include that here. In this book, Beat poet Andy Clausen presents his memoirs of hanging with Beat and Beat-related figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Charles Bukowski.
Little Boy, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Obviously this is not a Beat Studies text but it is an extremely significant Beat book in that it is written by centenarian poet and publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose hundredth birthday was in March. It was celebrated with a large party at City Lights Bookstore, and the publication of his groundbreaking new novel, Little Boy.
World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller, by David S. Wills
This is my own book, so apologies for the shameless self-promotion. However, it is most definitely a Beat Studies book and it was published in March, 2019, so it would be silly to leave it off the list.
World Citizen looks at the life and work of Allen Ginsberg. It frames all the major events of his life in terms of travel, and ultimately explores the extent to which travel shaped his poetry, politics, and personality. The book takes you through his journeys in 66 countries, and explains how these travels helped him write poems such as “Howl” and “Kaddish”.
The French Genealogy of the Beat Generation, by Véronique Lane
The Beats loved France. Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso… so many of them travelled there, lived there, wrote there, and even spoke the language. They worshipped French authors and adored the artistic environment that was far more conducive to the Beat ethos than repressive America in the 1950s. This recent book digs into the influence of French writers on the Beats.
The Last Quarter Century, by Gerald Nicosia
Nicosia is the author of Memory Babe, an important biography of Jack Kerouac, and this is his latest book. I have not read this, but will get a copy when it comes out. Rick Dale’s Daily Beat Blog has a good review of it.
Blame it on Blake, by Jacob Rabinowitz
A recently self-published book about Beat authors, drugs, the occult, and William Blake. I know little about this but am awaiting a review copy.
Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock, by Brian Hassett
This book is actually not about the Beat Generation, but is written by Brian Hassett, author of a recent Beat trilogy. It also contains various references to Jack Kerouac. Here is Brian’s new book alongside the older Beat ones:
Seeing the Beat Generation, by Raj Chandarlapaty
This book, which comes out in less than a fortnight, is about the Beat Generation as adapted for the cinema. This is a really fascinating idea for a book, and I can’t wait to read it. Pre-order your copy here.
William S. Burroughs: Cutting up the Century
Coming in June, 2019, this title by Joan Hawkins and Alex Wermer-Colan is billed as “the definitive book on Burroughs’ overarching cut-up project”. It promises to contain unpublished work by Burroughs, including journals written around the time of Joan Vollmer’s death. According to the publicity materials:
William S. Burroughs Cutting Up the Century also features original essays, interviews, and discussions by established Burroughs scholars, respected artists, and people who encountered Burroughs. The essays consider Burroughs from a range of starting points―literary studies, media studies, popular culture, gender studies, post-colonialism, history, and geography.
It certainly sounds fascinating, and I look forward to reading it.
William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Casey Rae
It is good to see more books about the life and work of William Burroughs. Since the 100th anniversary of his birth back in 2014, there have been various books published about him, including a major new biography by Barry Miles. More niche titles have looked at other areas, such as ecology. Now, Casey Rae has looked at Burroughs’ relationship with music – something that, in retrospect, should have been obvious. It seems the Beat author held a tremendous influence over the music world, and his ideas continue today even among artists who don’t know his name.
I interviewed Rae here and my review will appear in American Book Review at some point this year.
Conversations with Allen Ginsberg, by David Calonne
This is another collection of Allen Ginsberg interviews. There are already several on the market, so it will be interesting to see which of Ginsberg’s countless interviews make it into this collection. The editor, David Calonne, has already collected a book of interviews with Gary Snyder.
Pic, by Jack Kerouac
Kerouac’s last novel, and probably his least admired book, gets a new edition with a very handsome new cover when it is re-released by Penguin in July.
Tristessa, by Jack Kerouac
Another of Kerouac’s less famous novels is getting re-released with a shiny new cover by the good people at Penguin.
Mexico City Blues, by Jack Kerouac
That’s right… another Kerouac book gets re-released on July 4th. The cover for this one has not yet (as of 16th May) been made public.
Revolutionary Letters: Expanded Edition, by Diane di Prima
City Lights is re-releasing this “classic of eco-feminist-Zen Beat poetry” by Diane di Prima. It will be released together with a previously unpublished book…
Spring and Summer Annals, by Diane di Prima
This previously unpublished collection was written by di Prima in the 1960s, following the suicide of a close friend, Freddie Herko. She started writing to him after his death as a form of therapy, but the book was reworked and adapted for publication.
Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman
I am very excited about this beat books. Bob Kaufman was one of the most fascinating Beat characters, and yet he is often downplayed in Beat history. His poetry was often spoken aloud rather than written down, and so most of it simply did not survive to be read and studied later. However, some thankfully did, and finally he has a collection:
The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman brings together every known surviving poem by this major African-American surrealist, including the three beat books published in his lifetime, Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness, Golden Sardine, and The Ancient Rain.
This book is edited by the very cool trio of Neeli Cherkovski, Raymond Foye, and Tate Swindell.
South American Journals: January–July 1960, by Michael Schumacher
In 1960, Allen Ginsberg spent six months travelling around South America. He explored various countries on the continent, visited Machu Picchu, and tried yagé. This book collects his journals from that formative journey into one volume. This is the second in a trilogy of books edited by Schumacher for the University of Minnesota Press. Last year, they published Iron Curtain Journals, and in 2017 came another Schumacher-edited volume, First Thought.