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.
Although the Beats are known as literary rebels, they were often very much aware of their predecessors through the ages. The links between the Beats and, say, the Romantics, are very well-documented, but this volume exploring the significance of the Ancient Greeks is timely and fascinating. Particular highlights in this dense and impressive collection include Gair’s essay on Kerouac’s Greek connections and Loni Reynolds’ surprising insights into the influence of classical tradition (consciously or otherwise) on Burroughs’ novels.