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About the Beats


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Primary materials, photos, video and audio files

Pull My Daisy, 1959. Narrated by Jack Kerouac, starring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers. Presented by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, music by David Amram. The classic Beat film. At YouTube, the complete 26 minute version.

"Allen Ginsberg" video introduction to Ginsberg, includes interviews, his discussing and reading "Kaddish." Outstanding video. By Gottfried Geist at YouTube.

Jack Kerouac shooting pool and narrating, 1967, Lowell, Mass., at YouTube.

Kerouac on The Steve Allen Show, 1959, at YouTube.

Kerouac reads from On the Road, YouTube.

Allen Ginsberg reads "America," live reading, unfinished version, 1956. "Howl," YouTube.

William S. Burroughs reads "Is Everybody In?" by Jim Morrison, over music by The Doors (and mutters about Rimbaud and says, "Jim Morrison, drowned in a bathtub in Paris, seems a goddamned odd thing to happen to me").

Excerpts from the 1968 interview of Jack Kerouac on "Firing Line" by William F. Buckley, who begins, "Ah, the topic tonight is the hippies, an understanding of whom we must, I guess, acquire or die painfully."

Photos by Allen Ginsberg and Friends. Photos from the 1940s to the 1990s, of Carl Solomon, Lucien Carr, Joan Vollmer, Herbert Huncke, Peter Orlovsky, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Neal Cassady, many others, and of his travels in California, Mexico, Morrocco, India and Japan. The Allen Ginsberg Project.

Candid photos of Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Michael McClure, and Bob Dylan, by Larry Keenan.

The history of Circle magazine, an experimental San Francisco publication started in 1944. SS Vallejo.

Explore YouTube for many more video clips of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso and friends.


Literary criticism

Belgrad, Daniel. Publisher's site for The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America (U of Chicago P 1998).

Bennett, Robert. A review of "Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Beats: New Directions in Beat Studies." College Literature 32 (2005) [first page of article only]. Reviews Skerl, Jennie, ed. Reconstructing the Beats. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004; and Martinez, Manuel Luis. Countering the Counterculture: Rereading Postwar American Dissent from Jack Kerouac to Tomás Rivera. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 2003. Bennett writes, "both should be required reading for scholars interested in the Beat Generation's contributions to post World War II American culture. While neither work, taken individually, covers the full range of debates going on in Beat studies today, each work clearly articulates a specific position within these debates. Taken together, however, these two works collectively raise many of the fundamental issues that contemporary Beat scholars are now debating."

Campbell, James. This Is the Beat Generation (U of California P, 2001). Publisher's web page and an excerpt from the first chapter.

Collins, Ronald K.L. and David M. Skover. "Trial of 'Angelheaded Hipsters': The challenge to 'Howl,' the powerful poem that turned the '50s into the '60s." First Amendment Center.

Chandarlapaty, Raj. A review of Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, by John Lardas. College Literature (2002).

Fields, Rick. Publisher's web site for How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America (Shambhala 1992).

Gerson, Mark. "Norman's Conquest: A Commentary on the Podhoretz Legacy. Discusses Norman Podhoretz and his 1958 Partisan Review article, "The Know-Nothing Bohemians." The Hoover Institution, 1995. Also Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World, by Alexander Bloom. [Cultural context].

Hemmer, Kurt. "Barbarians in the Gates: Recent Beat Scholarship." Reviews "A Clown in a Grave": Complexities and Tensions in the Works of Gregory Corso by Michael Skau; The View from On the Road: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac by Omar Swartz; Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend: The Mythic Form of an Autobiographical Fiction by James T. Jones; Jack Kerouac, The Word and the Way: Prose Artist as Spiritual Quester by Ben Giamo; and The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs by John Lardas. RMMLA 55.2 (2004)

Johnson, Ronna C. and Nancy M. Grace, eds. Girls Who Wore Black: Women Writing the Beat Generation (Rutgers UP 2002). Preview at Google Books.

Knight, Brenda. Women of the Beat Generation (Conari Press 1996). A review.

Menand, Louis. "Drive, He Wrote: What the Beats Were About." New Yorker 1 Oct. 2007.

Skerl, Jennie, ed. Publisher's site for Reconstructing the Beats (Macmillan 2004). "The essays offer critiques of media stereotypes and popular cliches that influence both academic and popular discourse about the Beats, connect the literature of the Beat movement to music, painting, and film, and ultimately open new directions for study of the Beats in the 21st century." E-book version.

Theado, Matt. A review of The Beat Generation: Critical Essays, edited by Kostas Myrsiades (Peter Lang, 2002). Contemporary Literature 45 (2004) [First page of article only].

"Beat Generation." Jack Magazine. Ed. Mary Sands. Includes book and film reviews.

Gates, David. "Breaking up with the Beats." Salon Magazine. Novelist David Gates on the influence of the Beats on younger writers. [Ad-heavy].

"The Beats Order Lunch." Salon Magazine 4 May, 1999. About a documentary film of the last meeting of Paul Bowles, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. [Ad-heavy].


Web sites

The Beat Studies Association. Pres. Jennie Skerl. Includes scholarly reviews of books on the Beats [indexed here through Jan. 2008].

"The Beat Generation." The Backbeat: Behind the Beat Movement; The Feel of the Fifties: The Social and Intellectual Background; American Civilzation and its Discontents: Middle Class Anxieties and Fears; Creativity on the Margins: the African-American Experience and the Jazz Life; The Documentary Record: biographies, readings, filmed events, interviews. U of California, Berkeley Library. [Extended descriptions and links for cultural context for the 1950s.]

"Rebels: Painters and Poets of 1950s." National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Museum. Paintings and photographs of the writers and visual artists, accompanied by two essays.

"Kerouac Alley." Video and links for the east and west coast beats, extensive selection, also good coverage of the music and musicians associated with the Beats.

Naropa Poetics Audio Archives. Audio files of lectures given at Naropa by Beat writers. The Naropa Archive Project is preserving and providing access to over 3500 recordings made at Naropa since 1974, which include lectures and readings by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Diane di Prima, Ann Charters, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, and many others. Also Ginsberg's 31-session "Basic Class in Poetics." Internet Archive [poor interface].

"The Psychedelic '60s: Literary Tradition and Social Change." U of Virginia Library, Special Collections. First editions and brief discussion. Includes sections on the Beats in New York and in San Francisco.


Beat publishing history & book collecting

Articles by Jed Birmingham at Reality Studio and the archive of small press material there are outstanding. A recent story on publisher Charles Plymell in which Plymell suddenly joins in on the blog commentary is an example.

Hayward, Michael. "Unspeakable Visions." The publishing history of Beat writers. MA thesis, 1991.

Weddle, Jeff. Publisher's site for Bohemian New Orleans: The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press (UP of Mississippi).

"Book Collecting: Beat Literature." On the Wilson 50 list of the 50 most influential books in American literature, and the 12 Beat books on that list.

Water Row Books, "Selling and publishing original Beat and underground literature since 1978."

Empty Mirror Books. "Selling hard-to-find & collectible Beat Generation, counterculture, art & poetry books since June, 2000."


Removed articles

Clay, Steve and Rodney Phillips. Excerpt from A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing, 1960-1980. Based on the acclaimed 1998 exhibition at The NY Public Library documenting experimental literary publishing in this period (removed).

"A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing, 1960-1980." Underground Publications Document Poetry's 'Mimeo Revolution' in Exhibition at The NY Public Library, featuring the handmade, experimental publications of work by writers and artists of the period. Press release about a 1998 exhibition at the NYPL (removed).


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