The Reading List: The Beat Poets
Monday 07 March 2011
Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg; £6.75
A landmark portrayal of a “generation destroyed by madness” and the downtrodden lives of Ginsberg and his fellow “angelheaded hipsters”, ‘Howl’ is one of the most important poems of the post-war period. The story of the obscenity trial that followed its 1956 publication forms the basis of the new film, Howl, starring James Franco.
This is the Beat Generation by James Campbell; £16.99
A fascinating cultural history of the movement, this thorough account begins with how the term “beat” was originally coined by Herbert Huncke, then goes on to tell the story of how the three main figures – Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs – came together in 1940s New York against a backdrop of ideas, booze and murder, before relaying their respective literary successes, relationships and internal struggles.
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac; £9.99
Having been introduced to Buddhism in the mid-1950s, Kerouac wanted to explore the duality of his Zen life and his hedonistic life. While not nearly as well known as On the Road, The Dharma Bums is yet another tour-de-force novel following two men, and features all the key Beat preoccupations, namely an insatiable appetite for drugs, love and life.
The Beat Hotel by Harold Chapman; currently out of print
In the late 1950s, much of the group took up residence in a shabby hotel in Paris’s Latin Quarter. It was here that Ginsberg, along with his lover Peter Orlovsky, escaped following the trial; where Burroughs finished Naked Lunch and where the likes of Gregory Corso worked on their poetry. Documenting all this was Harold Chapman, who shot hundreds of portraits of the unconventional family on his Pentax. It’s a treasure worth seeking out.
Girls Who Wore Black by Ronna C. Johnson, Nancy M. Grace; £21.50
The Beat Generation has long been accused of misogyny; their fictional women often treated as objects. In reality, there were other roles to fill than that of the discarded lover. Many of the female figures wrote prose and poetry themselves. This book commemorates some of the women who both inspired and contributed their own work to the Beats’ canon.
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he'd killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
This house and dental clinic 'piled up like bricks on the brink of collapsing' is why Japan wins at architecture
Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
James Cameron hypes up Avatar sequels: 'You will s**t yourself with your mouth wide open'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Ed Miliband's 'north London set' must be demolished to save Labour, say critics
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans