Litkicks Message Board Archive

The Beats - A Literary Reference (ed. Matt Theado)

Posted to WritersAndGenres




Yes – “a lively documentary volume viewing anew (2001/3(paperback)) the percussive lives and countercultural times of the poets who styled the Beat Generation” (from the back cover).
The editor/collector for this volume (of a series) is Matt Theado, professor of English at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, NC, also wrote ‘Understanding Jack Kerouac’ in the (other) ‘Understanding…’ series (there’s also ‘Understanding the Beats’..).
This book (452 pages in large format) is a very nice analytical projection of the ‘Beat reality’, illuminating much of the (social and personal) background and development, with about 100 photographs and other sources, rare material. It is conceived as a ‘dictionary of literary biography, a documentary’ and as a clear-cut survey is a great supplement to
the various biographies (anthologies, letters, interview or reception volumes) of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs (Word Virus, At the Front), or Corso (Clown in a Grave),
also to the analyses which are focussed on style or meaning / vision (like ‘The Spontaneous Poetics of JK’ (or ‘The Word and the Way’) – or ‘The Bop Apocalypse’, ‘Forrest Beatniks or Urban Thoreaus’, other contemplations of Beats and Buddhism (Big Sky Mind))
or important social aspects and connections (The Women of the Beat Generation; Beat Culture and the New America, Beat Punks),
orientations or regional modulations (Poets on the Peaks, the Kerouac ROM, Offbeat, The Duluoz Legend, Kerouac and Friends, Jack’s Book, Desolate Angel, Angel-headed hipster; Walking NYC, SF Beats, etc.).

Chapters comprise also a carefully produced Chronology of the Beat Generation, Primary Bibliography, surveys on The Beats in NYC (45 p.), The Beats in the West (68 p.), the mai sections are about Kerouac (100 p.), Ginsberg (ca. 50 p.), Burroughs (60 p.), Cassady (32 p.), Corso (22 p.), Clellon Holmes (23 p.), Snyder (25 p.), with further sources and index.

There are many otherwise missing or only side-remarked / cited contexts, critiques, often presented in a surprising way, beautiful and lovely, sometimes even funny for a Beat fan:
At the core are heaps of newspaper / magazine clippings on the different Beat personalities, their literary approaches as well as their ‘bohemian’ lifestyles, social influence / ‘society’s’ reactions or characteristic happenings; then there are comprising interviews, selections of interesting historic book jackets, reproductions of manuscript pages, notebook scribblings, extracts from personal correspondence.
Though I’m not a ‘personality freak’, I loved the childhood photos of Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Cassady on one page, Ginsberg’s ‘reading list’ of books for a certain period, a short contribution to the Playboy magazine by Kerouac, characteristic excerpts from the Huncke Reader (and a New York Times article on his death), a reproduced receipt for Huncke’s writing, the ‘Portrait of the Hipster’ (from the Partisan Review 148), school photos, a letter in which Ginsberg recommends Kerouac for publishing, Ginsberg at a demonstration, etc etc etc. .