John Tytell (born May 17, 1939) is an American writer and academic, whose works on such literary figures as Jack Kerouac, Ezra Pound, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, and William S. Burroughs, have made him both a leading scholar of the Beat Generation, and a respected name in literature in general. He has been a professor of English at Queens College, City University of New York since 1963. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his Ezra Pound: The Solitary Volcano (1987).
In The Beat Interviews, John Tytell speaks with Beat Generation luminaries Herbert Huncke, John Clellon Holmes, William S. Burroughs, Carl Solomon, and Allen Ginsberg about their lives and the lives of their contemporaries. These groundbreaking interviews were conducted in the 1970s and are collected here together for the first time. In addition, the author has gathered essays giving insight into the style and philosophy of the Beats, elucidating upon the interviews to provide a unique comprehensive overview of the Beat movement.
Beatdom Books was founded in 2007. This small, independent press has published books about the Beat Generation, such as Larry Beckett’s Beat Poetry (2012), David S. Wills’Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’, Philip Willey’s Naked Tea: The Burroughs Bits, and Marc Olmsted’s Don’t Hesitate: Knowing Allen Ginsberg ’72-’97. It also publishes a small number of fiction and poetry titles, as well as the internationally acclaimedBeatdom literary journal.
Tytell is a great companion. Here at the top of his form he celebrates the Beats with his all-encompassing sensitivity to the major writers. Tytell’s deep commitment and warm personal insights shine through The Beat Interviews.
– Ann Charters, author of Kerouac: A Biography, and editor of Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956.
Just when we thought there was nothing more to say about the Beat Generation, John Tytell’s new book is refreshing. At the heart of the book are his interviews, conducted when the key figures were alive and talking. The straightforward Q and A format allows us to hear their distinctive voices before they were edited and tidied up as literary history. It is rare to be able to enjoy the oral voice so clearly.
– Steven Watson, author of The Birth of the Beat Generation.
In addition to being one of the country’s leading scholars in the field of Beat Studies, John Tytell was intimate with most of the era’s major literary figures. That fact alone makes these interviews indispensable. He has interspersed insightful essays throughout this exceptional collection of interviews, to reveal each writer as a truly unique individual. Nevertheless they somehow merged to form one of America’s greatest generations of authors. Tytell’s enlightened and unsurpassed approach makes for worthwhile reading and is a researcher’s dream.
– Bill Morgan, author of The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Guide and editor ofHowl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression.
It is wonderful to start the book with Huncke and so nice to also read and therefore be in the same room with Carl. And the second Chapter The COOL World sets up Holmes interview, and is really important stuff. And all the essays in the book are really well done and INTERESTING!! So if this new book can excite an 83 year old, imagine what a gift this book will be to younger folks!!
– David Amram, author of Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac.
If John Tytell’s new book were merely a re-visit to these stars of the Beat Generation from an earlier time, The Beat Interviews would be a valuable reminder of who they were to anyone interested in this unique counter cultural literati. But, this slim volume is so much more. Interwoven with the writers’ first hand accounts, Tytell’s sharp analysis, honed by decades-long scrutiny, updates the record and corrects the revisionism as time moves farther from the facts. The impulse to mythologize, inherent to the Beat movement, is busted here, and the truth is so much more exciting. Now that the beat writers have
entered history, this book is essential reading for understanding their lives and literature, from a critic who was there from the beginning.
– Regina Weinreich, author of Kerouac’s Spontaneous Poetics, editor of Kerouac’s Book of Haikus, and co-producer/director of the documentary, Paul Bowles: The Complete Outsider.
John Tytell’s The Beat Interviews, a rich collection of some of the raw material behind Professor Tytell’s considerable scholarship, offers a first-hand focus on significant Beat Generation figures Herbert Huncke, John Clellon Holmes, William S. Burroughs, Carl Solomon, and Allen Ginsberg. Though several of them have taken on a larger-than-life status, their interviews offer an inescapable sense of their personal presence: Huncke talks to us with his “midnight mouth,” Burroughs gives us his unadorned Factualist truths, and Ginsberg shares personal recollections and literary insight on Burroughs himself…. A sixth “interviewee” is John Tytell, whose commentaries on each author are so conversationally written we’re certain he too is seated close, talking to us.
– Gordon Ball, author of East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg and Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness.
John Tytell’s Beat interviews are particularly illuminating because he has always known the right questions to ask. Like all his valuable work on the Beats, starting with the ground-breaking Naked Angels, this book reflects a profound and informed understanding of their place in American literature, their cultural importance and the tumultuous lives they lived.
– Joyce Johnson, author of Minor Characters and The Voice is All.